BEIRUT, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Lebanon has accepted an international request to use its Rayyak military airport in eastern Bekaa for "possible evacuation of wounded United Nations personnel in Syria," Al Akhbar newspaper reported Wednesday quoting European sources.
The report said that the UN submitted an official request to the Lebanese government to allow its peacekeeping forces working in south Lebanon (UNIFIL) to use the facilities of Rayyak military airport, and dispatch a technical team to evaluate its feasibility for the UNIFIL helicopters.
"The UNIFIL command informed the Lebanese authorities about the details of a specialized helicopter with pilots that would be sent to the Rayyak airbase to evacuate wounded UN personnel from Syria if needed," the paper quoted sources close to the UNIFIL.
The daily pointed to the timing of the request that concurred with the evacuation of Russian nationals from Syria via Beirut airport, raising speculation of "intensified military clashes in Syria in the coming period."
Located about 55 km east of Beirut, Rayyak airfield is geographically the closest airport to the Syrian-Lebanese border.
The only runway of the airport, about 3 km long, is basically fit for commercial airplanes and has been used during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) for such flights.
The UN has dispatched since 1974 a peacekeeping force comprised of 1,187 soldiers, known as the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), to maintain the cease-fire between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights.