BEIRUT: The U.S. State Department issued late Tuesday a general warning for U.S. citizens residing in or planning on visiting Lebanon.
The general message was: don't come, to paraphrase the warning note in short.
According to the note, U.S. citizens should reconsider or avoid travel to certain areas in Lebanon because of the threats of terrorism, armed clashes, kidnapping, and outbreaks of violence, especially near Lebanon’s borders with Syria and Israel.
U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should be aware of the risks of remaining in the country and should carefully consider those risks, as the warning stated.
"(Americans should) Reconsider traveling to Lebanon because of crime, terrorism, and armed conflict," the proforma message read. "Do not 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 conflict."
The travel warning continued with the standard cautionary note that travelers 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 restrictions. The internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be adjusted at any time and without advance notice.
"Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Lebanon. The potential exists for death or injury in Lebanon because of the attacks and bombings perpetrated by terrorist groups. Terrorists may conduct attacks with little or no warning targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities," the warning said.
Further, the warning note emphasized, that 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.
Armed clashes have occurred along the Lebanese borders, in Beirut, and in refugee settlements. The Lebanese Armed Forces have been brought in to quell the violence in these situations.
"Public demonstrations can occur with little warning and could become violent. You should avoid areas of demonstrations and exercise caution in the vicinity of any large gatherings," the STEP warning said.
"Protesters have blocked major roads to gain publicity for their causes, including the primary road to the U.S. Embassy, and the primary road between downtown Beirut and Rafiq Hariri International Airport. Access to the airport may be cut off if the security situation deteriorates," the STEP said.
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