The U.S. State Department ordered non-essential staff to leave Lebanon. The warning comes at a time when President Obama and the Congress debate a possible military action in Syria. The State Department also urged the U.S. citizens not to travel to Lebanon due to safety and security concerns. Authorities said in a statement that Americans living in Lebanon should carefully consider the risk of remaining in the country. According to Matthew Lee of The Associated Press, the United States has been considering the step since last week.
U.S. says Beirut Embassy will not offer protection
As the U.S. gears up to conduct a military strike on Syria to punish Assad regime for using chemical weapons, experts fear that neighboring countries including Iran may retaliate. Yesterday, the State Department also warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Iraq.
In its warning statement, the State Department said that U.S. citizens living in Lebanon will have to arrange for their travel out of Lebanon themselves. Commercial flights are still operating at Beirut International Airport. For those citizens that decides to stay in Lebanon, the Department said they should be prepared to leave at short notice.
The Embassy Beirut will not offer protection service to the U.S. citizens who feel unsafe. The Embassy Beirut also urged Americans in Lebanon to keep checking media updates for the latest developments. The State Department said that there is no government-sponsored evacuation program as of now. The U.S. government sponsors evacuation only if there is no safe commercial alternative.
Other countries also warn citizens
Other countries including Britain, Kuwait, Bahrain and France have also issued similar warnings to their citizens. They fear that the divided communities in Lebanon could turn violent due to conflict in neighboring Syria. According to sources, more than 14,000 people departed from Lebanon on Thursday. And most of them were Europeans.
Last month, the State Department had issued a travel alert and closed many of the U.S. embassies in Middle-East amid threats from Al-Qaeda linked organizations.
The ongoing conflict in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people and forced over two million people out of country.