Lebanon Travel Warning
Issued by US Department of State
Feb 09, 2003
This Travel Warning is being updated to alert American citizens to increased security concerns in Lebanon. The Department of State has authorized the departure of dependents and non-emergency personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut on a voluntary basis. Private American citizens currently in Lebanon should evaluate rigorously their own security situations and should consider departing. This replaces the Travel Warning for Lebanon issued December 9, 2002.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to consider carefully the increased risks of travel to Lebanon. As stated in the current Middle East and North Africa Update Public Announcement, Americans are reminded of the potential for further terrorist actions against U.S. citizens abroad, specifically in the Middle East.
On February 7, as a result of increased security concerns, the Department of State authorized the departure of dependents and non-emergency employees at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon on a voluntary basis. U.S. consular personnel remain available to provide emergency information and services to American citizens.
U.S. citizens who remain in or travel to Lebanon despite this warning are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and enroll in the warden system (emergency alert network) to obtain updated information on travel and security in Lebanon. See guidance below on registration information and directions on how to receive direct e-mail notification of warden messages. Americans in Lebanon should exercise caution and take prudent measures to maintain their security. These measures include being vigilantly aware of their surroundings, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, varying times and routes for all required travel and ensuring travel documents are current.
Tensions in the Middle East have prompted continuing expressions of anti U.S. rhetoric and public sentiment. Events over the last months in Lebanon, such as bombings directed at U.S. franchises and the murder of a U.S. citizen in Sidon in November 2002, underscore the need for American citizens to be cautious and take 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. Lebanons southern border has been quieter in recent months, although tensions remain high. Hizballah and Palestinian militant activity there could increase without warning.
During Lebanon's civil conflict from 1975 to 1990, Americans were the targets of numerous terrorist attacks in Lebanon. The perpetrators of these attacks are still present in Lebanon and retain the ability to act.
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 U.S. However, sales of airline tickets for travel to Lebanon are permitted in the U.S., including on MEA. Official U.S. government travelers take extraordinary security measures when using the Beirut International Airport.
The Department of State keeps the security situation in Lebanon under close review and will address additional risks and take any other appropriate steps as necessary. U.S. citizens who travel to Lebanon should exercise caution when traveling in parts of the southern suburbs of Beirut and portions of the Bekaa Valley and South Lebanon. Hizballah has not been disarmed and it maintains a strong presence in these areas.
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 therefore be avoided. Asbat al-Ansar, a terrorist group with apparent links to Al-Qaida, has targeted U.S. and Lebanese 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 land mines 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 security situation may change rapidly, and visitors to Lebanon should monitor the news for reports of incidents that might affect their personal safety. From time to time the Embassy may temporarily suspend public services to review its security posture. In those instances, U.S. citizens who require emergency services may telephone the Embassy.
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. Contact with the U.S. Embassy on specific registration requirements may take place by phone, fax, or mail. Information on consular services and registration can also be found at http://www.usembassy.gov.lb. American citizens registering at the Embassy can receive updated information and warden messages via e-mail by subscribing to [email protected] American Citizen Services inquiries are answered by phone from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. However, American citizens who require emergency services outside of these hours can 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.
Additional details can be found in the Department of State's latest Consular Information Sheet for Lebanon, the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement and the Middle East and North Africa Update Public Announcement at http://travel.state.gov.