The State Department has raised the travel advisory for Lebanon, urging U.S. citizens not to travel to the country ‘due to the unpredictable security situation related to rocket, missile, and artillery exchanges between Israel and Hizballah or other armed militant factions.’
The advisory issued on Tuesday also urged people to reconsider travel to Lebanon ‘due to terrorism, civil unrest, armed conflict, crime, kidnapping’ and the U.S. Embassy in Beirut’s ‘limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens.’ The State Department authorized the voluntary, temporary departure of family members of U.S. government personnel and some non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut due to ‘the unpredictable security situation in Lebanon.’
The advisory was hiked to Level 4, ‘Do not travel’ — the highest level — from Level 3, ‘Reconsider travel.’
The advisory notes the State Department is authorizing non-emergency staff and family members to leave the country (on a case-by-case basis), what the department refers to as an ‘authorized departure.’ Basically, the embassy is still functioning with non-essential staff allowed to leave if they want.
The embassy also posted guidance to U.S. citizens in Lebanon. It says not to travel to the border with Syria due to ‘terrorism and armed conflict,’ the border with Israel due to ‘the potential for armed conflict’ and refugee settlements due to ‘the potential for armed clashes.’
The State Department also warns U.S. citizens of ‘the risk of traveling on flights that fly over Syria, which include some flights to and from Beirut.’
The embassy in Lebanon said ‘terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Lebanon,’ warning the attacks may unfold ‘with little or no warning targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities.’
Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon have been engaging in skirmishes with Israeli forces along the Jewish state’s northern border, and Iranian officials have warned of the potential opening of a second front in the Israel-Hamas war in recent days.
Hezbollah has called for ‘a day of unprecedented anger’ on Wednesday in response to the explosion at a Gaza hospital that Palestinian authorities blamed on Israel, according to Reuters. However, Israel said the blast was caused by a misfired rocket launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad armed group. President Biden during his trip to Israel Wednesday said ‘data I was shown by my defense department’ backed up his comments saying it appeared jihadists – not Israeli forces – were behind the explosion at Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital.
Massive pro-Palestinian demonstrations erupted outside the U.S. Embassy in Beirut Tuesday night in response to the Gaza hospital blast.
The embassy said the Lebanese government cannot guarantee the protection of U.S. citizens against sudden outbreaks of violence.
‘Family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes can escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with no warning,’ the guidance continues. ‘Armed clashes have occurred along the borders, in Beirut, and in refugee settlements. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have been brought in to quell the violence in these situations.’
The guidance notes U.S. citizens should avoid demonstrations and exercise caution if near any large gatherings or protests ‘as some of these have turned violent,’ and 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 embassy also warns of kidnappings and unsolved killings in Lebanon.
‘Local security authorities have noted a rise in violent crimes, including political violence. Multiple unsolved killings in Lebanon may have been politically motivated. U.S. citizens living and working anywhere in Lebanon should be aware of the risks of remaining in the country and review their personal security plans,’ the embassy said. ‘Kidnapping, whether for ransom, political motives, or family disputes, has occurred in Lebanon. Suspects in kidnappings may have ties to terrorist or criminal organizations.’
State considers the threat to U.S. government personnel in Beirut ‘sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security.’
Fox News’ Rich Edson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.