On 17 October 2023, the U.S. Department of State issued an updated Travel Advisory for Lebanon, raising the level of advice to “Level 4: Do Not Travel.” The advisory reads in part as follows: “Do Not travel to Lebanon due to the unpredictable security situation related to rocket, missile, and artillery exchanges between Israel and Hizballah or other armed militant factions. Reconsider travel to Lebanon due to terrorism, civil unrest, armed conflict, crime, kidnapping, and Embassy Beirut’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens.
“On October 17, 2023, the Department authorized the voluntary, temporary departure of family members of U.S. government personnel and some non-emergency personnel from U.S. Embassy Beirut due to the unpredictable security situation in Lebanon.” The full text of the advisory can be read here.
Additionally, the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) updated its travel advice earlier the same day to include the following: “British nationals in Lebanon should consider whether they need to remain in Lebanon and, if not, leave by commercial means while they are still available.” The full text of the FCDO advice can be found here.
The Hizballah militant group has called for a “day of rage” on 18 October, blaming the Israeli military’s airstrike for an explosion at a hospital in Gaza City that resulted in hundreds of deaths. Following the event in Gaza City, thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, located just north of Beirut, overnight on 17-18 October and clashed with police officers at the scene. Protesters threw rocks and other objects at the officers, vandalized the fences and barriers outside the embassy compound, and set fire to a part of the embassy perimeter. Associated protests occurred elsewhere in Beirut, including near the French Embassy and the U.N. office.
Analyst Comment: The U.S. Department of State’s decision to advise against travel to Lebanon comes amid a rise in cross-border fire exchanges between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hizballah militants along the Lebanon-Israel border. Due to the increase in hostilities in the border area, Israeli officials on 16 October commenced the evacuation of 28 villages within 2 km (1 mi) of the Lebanese border. Reports indicate that Iran-backed foreign fighters continue to assemble along the southern Lebanese border area. Emerging information suggests there may be between 250 and 500 Iraqi militants deployed or deploying to the area. The threat of an attack on Israel by Iranian proxies based in Lebanon is increasing, especially in view of an expected Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.