Issued by US Department of State
May 20, 2004
This Travel Warning is being reissued to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing safety and security concerns in Lebanon. It is being reissued without change after periodic review. This supersedes the Travel Warning for Lebanon issued December 4, 2003.
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens to consider carefully the risks of travel to Lebanon. U.S. citizens in Lebanon are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut where they may also obtain updated information on travel and security in Lebanon. See registration details below.
Tensions in the Middle East have prompted public expressions of anti-U.S. rhetoric and public sentiment. Recent events in Lebanon, such as bombings directed at U.S. franchises and the November 2002 murder of a U.S. citizen in Sidon, underscore the need for caution and sound personal security precautions. There have also been demonstrations and spontaneous protests, sometimes violent, in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps, most major cities, and near the U.S. Embassy and United Nations headquarters. Lebanon's southern border has been quieter in recent months, although tensions remain high. Hizballah and Palestinian militant activity there could increase without warning.
In the past, Americans were the targets of numerous terrorist attacks in Lebanon. The perpetrators of many of these attacks are still present and retain the ability to act. American citizens should thus keep a low profile, varying times and routes for all required travel. Americans should also pay close attention to their personal security at locations where Westerners are generally known to congregate, and should avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.
The U.S. Government considers the potential threat to U.S. Government personnel assigned to Beirut sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under a strict security regime. This limits the movement of U.S. Embassy officials in certain areas of the country. This factor, plus limited staffing, prevents the Embassy from performing full consular functions and may hinder timely assistance to Americans in Lebanon. Unofficial travel to Lebanon by U.S. Government employees and their family members requires prior approval by the Department of State.
American air carriers are prohibited from using Beirut International Airport (BIA) due to continuing concern about airport and aircraft security arrangements. For similar reasons, the Lebanese carrier Middle East Airlines (MEA) is not permitted to operate service into the United States. Official U.S. government travelers take extraordinary security measures when using the Beirut International Airport.
U.S. citizens who travel to Lebanon despite this Warning should exercise heightened caution when traveling in parts of the southern suburbs of Beirut, portions of the Bekaa Valley and South Lebanon, and the cities of Sidon and Tripoli. Hizballah has not been disarmed and it maintains a strong presence in many of these areas, and there is potential for action by other extremist groups in the city of Tripoli.
Palestinian groups hostile to both the Lebanese government and the U.S. operate largely autonomously inside refugee camps in different areas of the country. Intra communal violence within the camps has resulted in violent incidents such as shootings and explosions. Travel by U.S. citizens to Palestinian camps should be avoided. Asbat al-Ansar, a terrorist group with apparent links to Al-Qaida, has targeted U.S.Lebanese, U.S. and other foreign government interests. It has been outlawed by the Lebanese government but continues to maintain a presence in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp.
Dangers posed by landmines and unexploded ordnance throughout south Lebanon are significant and also exist in other areas where civil war fighting was intense. Travelers should be aware of posted mine warnings and strictly avoid all areas where mines and unexploded ordnance may be present. Security conditions in areas along the Israel-Lebanon border are subject to change. There have been isolated incidents resulting in civilian injuries, including from accidental detonation of mines and confrontations across the border with Israeli forces in the immediate area of the border demarcation.
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, 544-310, 544-130, 544-140, and fax 544-209. American citizens registering at the Embassy can receive updated information and warden messages via e-mail by subscribing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on consular services and registration can also be found at http://www.usembassy.gov.lb or by phone at the above telephone numbers between 1:00 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, or, from overseas, 1-317-472-2328. Additional details can be found in the Department of State's Consular Information Sheet for Lebanon , the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement , the Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement and the Travel Publication "A Safe Trip Abroad," all of which are available on the Department's Internet site at http://travel.state.gov.