The United States has issued a new Lebanon travel warning to its citizens, saying it “supersedes the Travel Warning issued on July 29, 2016.”
“The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon because of the threats of terrorism, armed clashes, kidnapping, and outbreaks of violence, especially near Lebanon’s borders with Syria and Israel,” the department says in a statement published on its website.
“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,” it adds.
The new travel warning lists Hezbollah by name as one of the terrorist organizations operating in Lebanon
“Violent extremist groups operate in Lebanon, including U.S. government-designated terrorist organizations Hezbollah, ISIL (Da’esh), al-Nusra Front (ANF), Hamas, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB),” the statement says.
Here is the complete travel advisory
In the event that the security climate in Lebanon worsens, U.S. citizens will be responsible for arranging their own travel out of Lebanon. The Embassy does not offer protection services to U.S. citizens who feel unsafe. U.S. citizens with special medical or other needs should be aware of the risks of remaining given their condition, and should be prepared to seek treatment in Lebanon if they cannot arrange for travel out of the country.
There is potential for death or injury in Lebanon because of terrorist bombings and attacks. Violent extremist groups operate in Lebanon, including U.S. government-designated terrorist organizations Hizballah, ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Nusrah Front (ANF), Hamas, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB). ISIL and ANF have claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Lebanon. U.S. citizens have been the targets of terrorist attacks in Lebanon in the past. The threat of anti-Western terrorist activity persists, as does the risk of death or injury as a non-targeted bystander.
The Lebanese government cannot guarantee the protection of U.S. citizens against sudden outbreaks of violence, which can occur at any time in Lebanon. Armed clashes have occurred along the Lebanese borders and in Beirut. On August 31, 2016, a bomb exploded on a main road near the eastern Lebanese city of Zahleh, killing at least one person and wounding 11 others. On June 27, 2016, a series of blasts caused by suicide bombers in Qa’a, a town along Lebanon’s northeastern border, killed five people and injured many others. On June 12, 2016, an explosion occurred outside a commercial bank in the central Beirut area of Verdun, causing major damage to the building and injuring two people. On November 12, 2015, twin suicide bombings in a commercial and residential area of the Burj al-Barajneh neighborhood in Beirut’s southern suburbs killed 43 people and wounded 239 others. On January 21, 2017, Lebanese security forces thwarted an attempted suicide attack at a busy café on Hamra Street in downtown Beirut. The Lebanese Armed Forces are routinely brought in to quell the violence in these situations.
Family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes can escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with no warning. Also, celebratory gunfire in Lebanon has resulted in accidental injuries and deaths. In Tripoli, the neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen remain tense. Armed clashes have resulted in deaths and injuries in these neighborhoods in the past, and there are potentially large numbers of weapons in the hands of non-governmental elements.
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. Protesters have blocked major roads to gain publicity for their causes, including the primary road between downtown Beirut and Rafiq Hariri International Airport. Access to the airport may be cut off if the security situation deteriorates.
Kidnapping, whether for ransom, political motives, or family disputes, has occurred in Lebanon. Suspects in kidnappings may have ties to terrorist or criminal organizations. The U.S. government’s ability to help U.S. citizens kidnapped or taken hostage is limited. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to hostage takers. U.S. law makes it illegal to provide material support to terrorist organizations.
AREAS OF SPECIAL CONCERN
Avoid the Lebanon-Syria border region: U.S. citizens in Lebanon should monitor political and security developments in both Lebanon and Syria. The U.S. Embassy strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid the Lebanese-Syrian border region. There have been incidents of cross-border shelling and air strikes of Lebanese villages from Syria, resulting in deaths and injuries. There have been episodic clashes between the Lebanese Army and Syrian-based extremists along the border with Syria since August 2014. On March 24, 2016, a roadside bomb targeting a Lebanese Armed Forces patrol killed a Lebanese soldier and wounded several others in Lebanon’s restive northeast border town of Arsal. On November 5, 2015, a deadly blast ripped through Arsal, killing at least four people and wounding several others. The November attack, caused by a suicide bomber using a motorbike, targeted a meeting in the al-Sabil neighborhood of the Committee of Qalamoun Scholars. The next day, a Lebanese Armed Forces patrol in al-Sabil was targeted by a roadside explosive device. There have also been reports of armed groups from Syria kidnapping or attacking Lebanese citizens living in border areas.
Avoid the Lebanon-Israel border region: There are border tensions to the south with Israel, and the U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid this border. In January 2015, hostilities between Israel and Hizballah flared in the Golan Heights and Shebaa Farms area, and the potential for wider conflict remains. South of the Litani River, Hizballah has stockpiled large amounts of munitions in anticipation of a future conflict with Israel. There have been sporadic rocket attacks from southern Lebanon into Israel in connection with the violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. These attacks, normally consisting of rockets fired at northern Israel, often provoke a prompt Israeli military response. The rocket attacks and responses can occur without warning. Landmines and unexploded ordnance pose significant dangers throughout southern Lebanon, particularly south of the Litani River, as well as in areas of the country where fighting was intense during the civil war. More than 40 civilians have been killed and more than 300 injured by unexploded ordnance since the 2006 Israel-Hizballah war. Travelers should watch for posted landmine warnings and strictly avoid all areas where landmines and unexploded ordnance may be present.
Avoid the Bekaa Valley: Clashes between Lebanese authorities and criminal elements continue to occur in areas of the Bekaa Valley and border regions. Hizballah maintains a strong presence in the Bekaa Valley, in addition to areas in southern Lebanon and south Beirut. Hizballah has been the target of attacks by other extremist groups for their support of the Asad regime in Syria.
Avoid travel to refugee camps: Violence within refugee camps has resulted in shootings and explosions. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to refugee camps. Palestinian groups hostile to both the Lebanese government and the United States operate autonomously in formal and informal refugee camps in different areas of the country. On April 12, 2016, a car bomb explosion killed a senior Palestinian official near the Ein al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in the southern port city of Sidon.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risk of traveling on airlines that fly over Syria. Commercial aircraft are at risk when flying over regions in conflict. We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens considering air travel overseas evaluate the route that their proposed commercial flight may take and avoid any flights that pass through Syrian airspace. U.S. government personnel in Lebanon have been prohibited from taking flights that pass through Syrian airspace.
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. These practices limit, and may prevent, access by U.S. Embassy officials to certain areas of the country, especially to parts of metropolitan Beirut, Tripoli, the Bekaa Valley, refugee camps, and southern Lebanon.
U.S. government-facilitated evacuations, such as the evacuation that took place from Lebanon in 2006, occur only when no safe commercial alternatives exist, and they are not guaranteed even when commercial travel options are limited or non-existent. Evacuation assistance is provided on a cost-recovery basis, which means the traveler must reimburse the U.S. government for travel costs. U.S. citizens in Lebanon should ensure that they have valid U.S. passports, as lack of documentation could hinder U.S. citizens’ ability to depart the country. Additional information on the Department’s role during emergencies is provided on the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website.
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