Israel-Hamas War: Why Is The UK Telling Brits To Leave Lebanon?

The UK Foreign Office has advised against all travel to Lebanon.
People search through buildings, destroyed during Israeli air raids in the southern Gaza Strip on November 6, 2023
People search through buildings, destroyed during Israeli air raids in the southern Gaza Strip on November 6, 2023
Ahmad Hasaballah via Getty Images

As the Israel-Hamas war rages on, worries that it could turn into a regional conflict are spreading – and it seems the UK has already taken action.

Palestinian militants known as Hamas attacked Israel, killed 1,400 people and kidnapped more than 240 others last month. Tel Aviv then declared war.

According to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, more than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in the last four weeks.

Why could the Israel-Hamas war pull in other countries?

While the long-term hostilities in this region stem from questions over who has a right to the land, the conflict has already drawn in states from around the world.

Much of the West – including the UK and the US – has aligned itself with Israel, and have offered support. A handful of politicians have made public visits to Tel Aviv, and some (in the White House) have offered weapons, but all have stopped short of direct involvement.

Meanwhile, Israel’s neighbouring nations have voiced support for the Palestinian Arab cause, prompting fears that much more of the Middle East could be pulled into the war.

As seen in the map below, Israel is bordered by Lebanon to the north, Syria and Jordan to the east and Egypt to the south-west.

Map of Israel - Vintage Vector illustration
Map of Israel - Vintage Vector illustration
pop_jop via Getty Images

What has the foreign office said about Lebanon?

On Monday, the UK’s foreign, commonwealth and development office (FCDO) released an update about the “temporary withdrawal of some British Embassy staff from Lebanon”.

The statement advised any other British nationals in the country right now to do the same. It says:

“The FCDO continues to advise against all travel to the whole of Lebanon.

“If you are currently in Lebanon, we encourage you to leave now while commercial options remain available.

The rest of the statement explained “events in Lebanon are fast moving”, and “the situation has potential to deteriorate quickly and with no warning”.

The FCDO said: “Commercial routes out of Lebanon could be severely disrupted or cancelled at short notice and roads across the country could be closed.

“If you are currently in Lebanon, we encourage you to leave now while commercial options remain available.

“Travel within or out of Lebanon is at your own risk.

“The cannot tell you whether it is safe to travel to any departure point within Lebanon. However, see safety and security for information on known security risks in Lebanon and advice on how to keep yourself safe.”

There is more advice on the FCDO website about how to leave the country.

The energy secretary, Claire Coutinho, also told Sky News on Monday: “You’ll have seen in recent weeks that the prime minister, the defence secretary, the foreign secretary have all been in the region, and their concerns have been to make sure the conflict doesn’t escalate.

“Everything that we’ve done has been to try and protect British nationals and make sure that we are de-escalating things in the region.”

Why is there particular concern about Lebanon?

Tensions have been building on the northern border between Lebanon and Israel in recent weeks.

Hamas claims to be behind shelling on a northern Israeli town, Kiryat Shmona, having launched attacks from southern Lebanon.

The Lebanon-based Shia militant group, Hezbollah, has also started attacking Israel in the north last week over an area Lebanon (and Syria) claims it owns.

Israeli forces have subsequently been carrying out strikes in southern Lebanon, too.

Like Hamas, Hezbollah is propped up by Iran and the group has been clashing with Israel since the Hamas massacre.

The head of the Israel Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, said that Israel would be ready to “immediately execute” an operate against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

He added: “Israel did not start a war against Hezbollah and I do not recommend to anyone to start a war with us.”

Others have expressed concern that Hezbollah will perceive an Israeli victory against Hamas as a turning point which would prompt Israel to turn against it next.

Ahmed Abdul-Hadi, head of Hamas’ political bureau in Beirut, warned Hezbollah is “geared for a major war”, opening up a second frontline in the war.

Hezbollah also has the ear of other militant forces in the Middle East who operate in the Axis of Resistance alliance, organised by Iran, including Iraqi militants and Yemeni Houthis.


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