The US State Department is warning Americans not to travel to Lebanon and will allow family members of US government personnel and some non-emergency personnel to voluntarily depart the country “due to the unpredictable security situation.”
The U.S. State Department has recently elevated its travel advisory for Lebanon to the highest level i.e., level 4 (do not travel), due to ongoing rocket, missile, and artillery exchanges between Israel and the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah.
In the aftermath of Hamas‘s recent attack on Israel, a long-standing adversary, Hezbollah, and Israel have engaged in mutual shelling, raising concerns of a potential larger-scale conflict. While skirmishes between these parties have been commonplace over decades, the looming possibility of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Israel-Gaza conflict carries broader regional implications across the Middle East.
The advisory noted that “large demonstrations have erupted in the wake of recent violence in Israel and Gaza.”
In the wake of a major explosion at a Gaza hospital on Tuesday, believed to have claimed the lives of hundreds, mass demonstrations ignited across the region. Protests sprang up not only in the West Bank but also in various nations, including Jordan, Iraq, Iran, and Tunisia.
“U.S. citizens should avoid demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings or protests as some of these have turned violent,” the advisory said. “Protesters have blocked major roads, including thoroughfares between downtown Beirut and the area where the U.S. Embassy is located, and between Beirut and Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport.”
The advisory warned that “U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Lebanon should be aware that consular officers from the U.S. Embassy are not always able to travel to assist them.”
“The Department of State considers the threat to U.S. government personnel in Beirut sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security. The internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be adjusted at any time and without advance notice,” it said.
In Lebanon, a significant gathering of protesters formed near the square leading to the U.S. embassy in northern Beirut. Reports from CNN field reporters suggested that a subset of demonstrators sought to breach security barriers.
According to reporters on the scene for The Washington Post, protesters hit barricades, and one man drew applause for climbing the fence to plant a Palestinian flag.
U.S. officials have also issued travel warnings into Syria due to “terrorism and armed conflict” and warned against travel near the Lebanon-Syria border, as well as refugee settlements for the potential of armed clashes.
In recent years Lebanon has been reeling from an economic crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and an enormous explosion that struck the beleaguered capital three years ago.
The explosion killed nearly 200 people, devastated neighborhoods, and resulted in thousands of restaurant workers losing jobs. The organization of Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Nightclubs, and Pastries in Lebanon also estimated that Lebanon’s tourism sector faced an estimated $500 million loss.
Other countries have also given similar advisories, These countries include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands.
Amidst the current state of Lebanon, The economic crisis in Lebanon has led to widespread poverty and unemployment. The Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value, and there are severe shortages of food, fuel, and medicine. The political situation in Lebanon is also unstable, with the country facing several challenges, including a long-running power vacuum and a refugee crisis.
The risk of terrorism in Lebanon is also a concern. The country has a long history of violence, and there have been some terrorist attacks in recent years.
If you are considering traveling to Lebanon, it is important to be aware of these risks and to take appropriate precautions. You should also register with your country’s embassy or consulate in Lebanon so that they can contact you in case of an emergency.