US, UK urge citizens to leave Lebanon over border tensions

US, UK urge citizens to leave Lebanon over border tensions

BEIRUT (AFP): 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 Hamas.

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 authorised 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 travelling 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 combatants but also three civilians including a Reuters journalist.

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 against a deadly strike on a Gaza hospital.