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Lebanon Travel Warning

Issued by US Department of State

May 13, 2009

The Department of State continues to urge U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon due to current safety and security concerns.  Americans presently living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks.  This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on September 10, 2008 and updates information on security threats and ongoing political violence in Lebanon. 

While Lebanon enjoys periods of relative calm, the potential for a spontaneous upsurge in violence is real.  Lebanese government authorities are not able to guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country should violence erupt suddenly.  U.S. Embassy personnel practice strict security precautions at all times.  Access to borders and ports can be interrupted with little or no warning.  Under such circumstances, travel of U.S. Embassy personnel would likely be restricted further, hindering their ability to reach travelers or provide emergency services.

Clashes in the northern city of Tripoli in 2008 resulted in more than twenty fatalities and numerous injuries.  Additionally, a bomb exploded next to a city bus in Tripoli on August 13, 2008, killing fourteen people.  The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens in Tripoli consider these risks in light of past events.

On May 7, 2008, Hizballah militants blocked the road to Rafiq Hariri International Airport.  The action rendered the airport inaccessible and travelers were unable to enter or leave the country via commercial air carriers.  Armed Hizballah and other opposition members proceeded to enter areas of Lebanon not traditionally under their control, resulting in heavy fighting and a number of casualties.  Full access to the airport was restored on May 21, 2008 when hostilities subsided.  However, the United States remains concerned about the potential for violence, with little or no warning.

The threat of anti-Western terrorist activity exists in Lebanon; groups such as Al-Qaeda and Jund al-Sham are present in the country and have issued statements calling for attacks against Western interests in the past. 

Landmines and unexploded ordnance continually pose significant dangers throughout southern Lebanon, particularly south of the Litani River, as well as in areas of the country where civil war fighting was intense. More than a dozen civilians have been killed and over 100 injured by unexploded ordnance following the armed conflict in July-August 2006.  Travelers should watch for posted landmine warnings and strictly avoid all areas where landmines and unexploded ordnance may be present.

U.S. citizens traveling or resident in Lebanon despite this Travel Warning should be aware that the U.S. Embassy has a limited ability to reach all areas of Lebanon.  The Embassy cannot guarantee that Embassy employees will be able to render assistance to U.S. citizens in all areas of the country.  Furthermore, in the event that the security climate in the country worsens, American should be aware that they will bear the responsibility of arranging their own travel out of Lebanon.  Americans 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.   

U.S. Government-facilitated evacuations such as those that took place in 2006 occur only when no safe commercial alternatives exist.  Evacuation would be provided on a cost-recovery basis, which means the traveler must reimburse the U.S. Government for travel costs.  A lack of a valid current U.S. passport will slow the U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide assistance. U.S. citizens remaining in Lebanon should therefore ensure that they have proper and current documentation at all times.  U.S. Legal Permanent Residents should consult with the Department of Homeland Security before they depart the United States to ensure they have proper documentation to re-enter.  Further information on the Department’s role during emergencies is provided at http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1212.html

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.  These practices limit, and may occasionally prevent, access by U.S. Embassy officials to certain areas of the country.  Unofficial travel to Lebanon by U.S. Government employees and their family members requires prior approval by the Department of State.

American citizens who come to work in Lebanon should ensure that their Lebanese employer arranges for proper documentation to remain in the country; this includes professional athletes, who should ensure that their sponsoring club/team arranges for them to receive the correct visas valid for the duration of their stay. 

Americans planning to travel between Lebanon and Syria should consult the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for Syria, which can be found at http://travel.state.gov/travel/.  Americans planning to travel to Syria from Lebanon are strongly advised to obtain a Syrian visa before leaving the United States.   

The Embassy is located in Awkar, near Antelias, Beirut, Lebanon.  Public access hours for American citizens are Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.; however, American citizens who require emergency services outside of these hours may contact the embassy by telephone at any time.  The telephone numbers are (961-4) 542-600, 543-600, and fax 544-209. 

American citizens may register with the embassy online by visiting https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs.  Americans are strongly encouraged to update their registration information if it is no longer current.  Information on consular services and registration can also be found at http://lebanon.usembassy.gov or by phone at the above telephone numbers between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday local time.

Updated information on travel and security in Lebanon may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States and Canada or, from overseas, 1-202-501-4444.  Additional details can be found in the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Lebanon and the Worldwide Caution, which are available on the Department's Internet website at http://travel.state.gov.

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