State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters today that the U.S. is estimating that it will have to evacuate thousands of Americans by sea and air from Lebanon, but he could not say exactly when. In the "very near future" was how he put it.
"You don't actually know how many people are going to want to leave until you actually start the larger-scale operations," said McCormack.
As NBC Pentagon Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reports, that process has already started as they are moving some Americans out in groups of 10 via an airbridge to Cyprus. McCormack said they will begin to move Americans by groups of 100s soon.
He said State and DOD officials are currently working on where the "rally points" would be for Americans to gather. In the meantime, they are encouraging people to gather up their travel gear and documents immediately to prepare to leave. Each traveler is told they can bring one suitcase weighing less than 30 pounds and no pets will be allowed.
For days the State Department has been encouraging Americans to register their whereabouts online, but now officials say those citizens who have not yet registered with the U.S. Embassy should do it by phone at (202) 501-4444 from overseas or at 1-888-407-4747 in the U.S.