Thousands of Britons trapped in Lebanon were last night waiting for the arrival of two Royal Navy warships for possible evacuation as world leaders called for an end to the bloodshed in the Middle East.
Up to 40,000 Britons were told to "keep a low profile" as fighting intensified between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon leaving more than 100 civilians dead.
Tony Blair joined world leaders at the G8 Summit in signing an emergency communique which said: "Extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and provoke a wider conflict.
"The extremists must immediately halt their attacks."
Downing Street said that was a clear reference to Syria and Iran, whom the Prime Minister had earlier blamed for fomenting the latest crisis which has seen an Israeli bombing blitz on Beirut in retaliation for the kidnap of two of its soldiers and rocket attacks on its cities fired from Southern Lebanon.
But the communique agreed by Mr Blair stressed: "It is also critical that Israel, while exercising the right to defend itself, be mindful of the strategic and humanitarian consequences of its actions.
"We call upon Israel to exercise utmost restraint, seeking to avoid casualties among innocent civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure and to refrain from acts that would destabilise the Lebanese government."