US emphasizes travel warning for Lebanon amid growing Israel-Hezbollah conflict

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut is repeating its warnings for American citizens to avoid traveling to Lebanon over increasing security threats, as the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel on Lebanon’s southern border intensifies.

In a security alert posted Thursday, the U.S. Embassy reminded American citizens “to strongly reconsider travel to Lebanon,” saying the security environment “remains complex and can change quickly.”

The embassy points out that the “Lebanese government cannot guarantee the protection of U.S. citizens against sudden outbreaks of violence and armed conflict,” and warns Americans from traveling to southern Lebanon, the Lebanon-Syria border area or refugee settlements.

The State Department also reposted its security warning for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza on the social media site X, reminding Americans to exercise “caution and increased personal security awareness.”

The warning comes one day after Canada urged its citizens to leave Lebanon, with Foreign Minister Melanie Joly saying in a statement that Canadian citizens should take advantage of commercial flights that “remain available.”

John Kirby, the White House national security communications adviser, deferred to the State Department on Wednesday when asked about whether the U.S. would issue a similar warning, but said the U.S. is working to limit fighting between Hezbollah and Israel.

“We’re trying to prevent an escalation of this conflict that certainly would put the people of Israel and of Lebanon at greater physical risk than the risk that is already being incurred by them, particularly those that live near the Blue Line,” he said, referring to the U.N.’s term for the boundary between Lebanon and Israel.

“We want to prevent that outcome, which is why we have been working so hard diplomatically and intensely … to prevent a second front from opening up and an expansion of this conflict.”

Kirby urged Americans to register with the State Department’s STEP program, which allows U.S. diplomats to keep tabs on Americans in foreign countries, send out alerts and security warnings, and provide assistance in the event of a natural disaster or conflict.

Israel and Hezbollah have traded fire across the Lebanese-Israeli border for nearly nine months, since Hamas launched a terrorist attack on Oct. 7 and Israel launched its war to defeat Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Both Israel and Hezbollah have ratcheted up rhetoric of a larger outbreak of conflict, with the Israeli government announcing it had approved a plan for a military offensive against Hezbollah, responding to the ongoing rocket, mortar and drone attacks launched from southern Lebanon.

And Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general, has intensified his rhetoric against Israel, saying that “no place is safe” from its arsenal of rockets and threatening E.U. member Cyprus.

The U.S.-designated terrorist group has also published propaganda videos showing drone footage over Israeli military sites and communities.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with senior Biden administration officials on Wednesday, where he discussed the threats from Hezbollah and “the possible ways to change the security situation in the northern arena,” according to a readout of his meetings provided by his spokesperson.

Gallant, speaking next to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, said increasing tensions between the U.S. and Israel were emboldening Israel’s allies. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused President Biden of slow-walking weapons deliveries to Israel, a charge the White House denies.

“The eyes of both our enemies and our friends are on the relationship between the U.S. and Israel,” Gallant said. “We must resolve the differences between us quickly and stand together — this is how we will achieve our goals and weaken our enemies.”

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