(RIA Novosti) - A fifth cargo plane with equipment for Russian combat engineers in Lebanon took off Thursday from an air base outside Moscow, the Russian Air Force commander said.
Four planes took off Tuesday and Wednesday carrying combat engineers and equipment to repair infrastructure devastated in Lebanon during a month of fighting this summer between Hizbollah fighters and the Israeli military. About 100 bridges and 60 highways were destroyed in the fighting, which claimed some 1,000 Lebanese and 160 Israeli lives, reports Trend.
General Vladimir Mikhailov said an Il-76 Candid military transport plane carrying 5 tons of cargo and 111 servicemen from a Russian bridge-building battalion took off at 8 a.m. Moscow time (4 a.m. GMT).
He said a sixth plane, another Il-76, would depart from the Chkalovsky air field later today at 1 p.m. Moscow time (9.00 GMT) to deliver 10 tons of cargo and 20 servicemen to the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
"These are the last two planes, which will complete the delivery of Russian servicemen to Lebanon by air," Mikhailov said.
The Russian Air Force will deliver a total of 130 tons of equipment and 300 servicemen to the Middle East country by October 6, while a Russian ship, the Yury Arshenevsky, which left the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk October 1 with combat engineers and equipment to erect six bridges, is scheduled to arrive at the southern Lebanese port of El-Jiya on October 6.
The upper house of the Russian parliament approved sending a battalion of combat engineers to Lebanon on September 26. Sergei Ivanov, Russia's defense minister and a deputy prime minister, said Russia's 400-men contingent in Lebanon would not participate in the UN peacekeeping group, but would operate on the basis of bilateral agreements between the Russian and Lebanese governments.
The contingent will operate near the city of Sayda, 48 kilometers (30 miles) south of Beirut, restoring bridges and roads, as well as clearing mines during their three months in Lebanon.