The UAE, Qatar and Bahrain, citing security concerns, yesterday urged their citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon, where clashes linked to the conflict in neighbouring Syria have left several people dead.
An official from the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Gulf News that a communique also asked Emiratis who are in Lebanon whether as tourists, businessmen or even students to leave the country.
“Those who have to be in Lebanon should be in contact with the UAE Embassy and they are urged to exit the country as soon as possible,” the official said. “They should avoid checkpoints and all places with military presence. We have requested universities and institutes to coordinate with the Emirati students who are there for summer courses,” he added.
Heavy fighting which rocked Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli in the past week left 10 people dead. In Syria yesterday a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden car outside security headquarters in the eastern city of Deir Al Zor, killing nine people and wounding 100.
Another 10 people were killed elsewhere in the country. Several countries, including the US and UK, have issued Lebanon travel warnings. Saudi Arabia last month warned Saudis to stay away from Lebanon’s border areas, after two Saudi citizens were kidnapped and tortured for eight days, before being freed in a joint Saudi-Lebanese operation.
A Qatari national is also reported to have been kidnapped in Lebanon recently.
“The situation in Lebanon is not encouraging to travel. I would love to visit my parents but I can’t expose my wife and children to the risks and dangers of being in Lebanon,” Elias Yousuf, Lebanese, 34, told Gulf News.
“I was planning to spend a holiday in Lebanon, but this warning is of great concern. I will abide by the recommendations of the government which has people on the ground who are astute in assessing safety conditions in general,” said Aisha Al Mutawa, a 26-year-old Emirati.
Ambassador Eisa Abdullah Masoud Al Kalbani, director of the department of Nationals’ Affairs at the UAE Foreign Affairs Ministry, said it was important that citizens register on the ministry’s online Tawajudi programme when leaving the Emirates. Qatari nationals needing to stay in Lebanon should inform their embassy in Beirut and provide their names, addresses and means of contact.
Meanwhile, Lebanese Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour urged the Gulf countries to review their decision because the security situation in Lebanon does not require such steps.