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Cablegate: Travel Warning - Lebanon

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RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI IMMEDIATE 0376
INFO RUESBKC/ATO ASIA IMMEDIATE 1657

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 STATE 050327

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC PTER ASEC LE
SUBJECT: TRAVEL WARNING - LEBANON

1. This Travel Warning updates information on security
threats and ongoing political violence in Lebanon, and
informs U.S. citizens of current safety and security
concerns. The Department of State urges that Americans
avoid all travel to Lebanon and that American citizens in
Lebanon consider carefully the risks of remaining. This
supersedes the Travel Warning for Lebanon issued on April
21, 2008.
2. Violence broke out on May 7, 2008 in the capital,
Beirut, when Hizballah militants blocked the road leading
to Rafiq Hariri International Airport. As of May 12,
2008, the airport remains inaccessible.
3. There have been reports that Hizballah fighters
continue to push into areas of Lebanon where they have not
traditionally been prevalent. In addition to the violence
provoked by these incursions, the U.S. remains concerned
about the threat of terrorist attacks against Western
interests 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.
4. The U.S. Embassy has suspended non-immigrant visa
services as of Monday, May 12, 2008. Normal visa services
are expected to resume when conditions improve. The
Embassy continues to provide emergency and routine
American citizens services.
5. Currently the American Embassy advises American
citizens present in Lebanon to ensure they have an
adequate supply of food, water and other essential items
and to remain safely inside their homes. Americans are
encouraged to review their travel plans following
resumption of normal air services.
6. Current options for exit from Lebanon include:

Exit by land to Syria. - Overland routes to Syrian border
crossings are open intermittently. Those traveling by
land to Syria technically need a Syrian visa issued in
Washington. Syrian officials have been issuing visas to
Americans at the border; however, Americans have reported
that they have had to wait for between five and eight
hours in order to be cleared for departure.
Exit by sea to Cyprus. - There are currently no ferry
services to Cyprus. The only sea route available has been
via private boat rental. The cost of a private yacht for
passage to Cyprus is expensive. Americans seriously
interested in this option should identify like-minded
people and pool their resources.

7. 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.
8. U.S. citizens traveling to Lebanon or resident in
Lebanon should be aware that the U.S. Embassy has limited
ability to reach all areas of Lebanon. The Embassy cannot
guarantee that Embassy employees can render assistance to
U.S. citizens in areas where there is limited government
control.
9. United States citizens are responsible for arranging
commercial or private means of transportation to depart
Lebanon. For Americans, individual or small-group travel
out of the country remains the safest option. U.S.
Government-facilitated evacuations such as took place in
2006 occur only when no safe private alternatives exist.
Evacuation would be provided on a cost-recovery basis,
which means the traveler must reimburse the U.S.

STATE 00050327 002 OF 002


government for the cost of the travel. The lack of valid
travel documents (U.S. passport or U.S. visa, as
appropriate) will slow the U.S. embassy's ability to
provide assistance. Further information on the
department's role during emergencies is provided at
http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emerg encies/emerge
ncies_1212.html.
10. 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.
11. 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.
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.
12. 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.

13. Minimize considered.
RICE

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