The US State Department renewed a travel warning for its nationals considering visits to Lebanon, and cautioned its citizens residing in the country against risks caused by political tensions.
“The Department of State continues to urge US citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon due to current safety and security concerns,” it said in a statement posted on its website. “US citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks.”
The latest warning supersedes one issued in March.
The State Department said “the potential for a spontaneous upsurge in violence is real,” even though the country has enjoyed periods of relative calm. It said Lebanese authorities are not able to “guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country should violence erupt suddenly.”
In August a gunfight between Hezbollah and a Sunni Muslim group left three people dead, the worst clashes since May 2008 when sectarian fighting in the country killed at least 80 people. On Aug. 3, a border shooting between the Lebanese army and Israel left four people dead, including two Lebanese soldiers and an Israeli officer.
Tensions have risen in the country in anticipation of an indictment by a United Nations tribunal investigating the killing of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, which may implicate members of the Shiite Hezbollah movement and could lead to an outbreak of violence, according to some Lebanese politicians. Lebanon has seen repeated outbreaks of sectarian strife and a 15-year civil war ended in 1990.
U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Lebanon “should keep a low profile, varying times and routes for all required travel,” the department said. “In the event that the security climate in the country worsens, U.S. citizens will be responsible for arranging their own travel out of Lebanon.” (Bloomberg)
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