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500,000 Lebanese flee the carnage
By Tim Butcher in Beirut
July 20, 2006

More than 60 people, most of them Lebanese civilians, were killed yesterday on the bloodiest day of the Middle East conflict so far.

As the violence continued the United Nations raised the possibility that civilian deaths could lead to war crimes charges. Lebanon said 300 people had been killed in eight days of Israeli air strikes and artillery barrages.

Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said commanders were legally obliged to protect non-combatants. She did not refer explicitly to Hizbollah, which continues to fire rockets indiscriminately across the Lebanese border, or Israel.

The first signs of a full-blown humanitarian disaster emerged with an estimated 500,000 Lebanese driven from their homes. Many civilians have been killed as they tried to flee the fighting, with Israel announcing that it regarded vehicles as legitimate targets.

The first 180 British citizens to be evacuated by the Royal Navy arrived in Cyprus yesterday on the destroyer Gloucester. A second destroyer, the York, later docked in Limassol with up to 300 British nationals on board. Thousands more Britons were waiting in Beirut to be evacuated.

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