BEIRUT, Lebanon — The US and British embassies in Beirut on Thursday advised citizens to leave Lebanon while flights “remain available” as border tensions between Israel and Hezbollah intensify over Israel’s war with the Hamas terror group that rules the Gaza Strip.
Both countries had already warned citizens against travel to Lebanon.
“We recommend that US citizens in Lebanon make appropriate arrangements to leave the country; commercial options currently remain available,” a US embassy statement said.
A similar warning was issued by the British embassy which said: “If you are currently in Lebanon, we encourage you to leave now while commercial options remain available.”
“British nationals should exercise caution and avoid areas where demonstrations may be held,” it added.
Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions have been trading daily cross-border fire with Israel after Hamas launched a massive October 7 assault on southern Israel, killing more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians.
Relentless Israeli strikes on Gaza have since killed at least 3,500 people, mostly civilians, according to health officials in the Hamas-run territory.
On Tuesday, the US State Department raised its travel advisory for Lebanon from level three to four — the highest level available.
It authorized non-essential embassy personnel and their families to leave their embassy citing the unpredictable security situation due to the Israel-Hamas war.
Many Arab and Western countries have already encouraged their nationals to avoid travel to Lebanon or leave, with Saudi Arabia on Wednesday urging its citizens to leave Lebanon “immediately” and Kuwait also warning against traveling there.
France, Germany, Canada and Australia have also warned against travel to Lebanon, while Spain has advised against non-essential travel.
Cross-border tensions have killed at least 21 people in Lebanon, according to an AFP tally, mostly people identified by Israel as terror operatives but also three civilians, including a Reuters journalist.
Smoke rises from Israeli shelling on the outskirts of the Lebanese village of Kfar Chouba, Lebanon, Oct. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
At least three people have been killed on the Israeli side.
Since Tuesday, like in many Arab capitals, demonstrators have taken to the streets of Beirut and its suburbs, including near the American and French embassies, to protest a blast at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza on Wednesday evening.
Hamas has blamed the blast on Israel despite mounting evidence showing that it was the result of a misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket.
War erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw at least 1,500 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,400 people and seizing over 200 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — men, women, children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 260 were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists, in what US President Joe Biden has highlighted as “the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”
Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas, and says it is targeting all areas of Gaza where Hamas operates, while seeking to minimize harm to civilians.
Source : Times of Israel