The British foreign office is pulling some embassy staff and all family members out of Lebanon due to concerns about the threat of a wider war in the Middle East.
The department announced it was taking the action on Monday due to the threat of the Lebanese-based Iranian-backed group Hezbollah mounting a second front against Israel.
Lebanon shares a border with Israel’s north and fighting has broken out after Hezbollah and Israeli soldiers traded fire.
The British foreign office said: “Events in Lebanon are fast moving. The situation has the potential to deteriorate quickly and with no warning.”
Britons were told on October 19 to leave Lebanon as fighting continues in the Israel and Hamas conflict. Protests had previously broken out in the Lebanese capital Beirut following a blast at the al-Ahli Hospital in the Gaza Strip.
Energy security secretary Claire Coutinho has stressed the need for “de-escalating” soaring tensions across the Middle East.
She told Sky News: “[We are all working] with everyone in the region to make sure we can keep tensions in check and also that we can make sure we’re getting humanitarian aid into Gaza.”
As the threat of a wider war continues, Antony Blinken held tense talks in Turkey on Monday. The US secretary of state extended a dash through the Middle East to try to head off regional spillover from Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Thousands of Brits travel to Lebanon every year but this is how the situation has affected the safety status of making the trip.
What is official Government advice on travelling to Lebanon?
As of November 7, the foreign office has advised against all travel to Lebanon, an upgrade in severity from the previous "all but essential travel".
“If you are currently in Lebanon, we encourage you to leave now while commercial options remain available,” guidance states.
“British nationals in Lebanon should register their presence with the FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office] through the link in Travel Advice.”
The guidance is in effect for the whole of Lebanon and not just the southern border with Israel.
There has also been Government advice about visiting Cyprus.
Are there flights in and out of Lebanon?
Beirut International Airport still has commercial flight options to passengers wishing to leave for Europe and other parts of Asia.
MEA (Middle East Airlines) is currently offering flights to and from London.
The British foreign office states: “Commercial routes out of Lebanon could be severely disrupted or cancelled at short notice and roads across the country could be closed.”
The office has stated that travel to and from Lebanon is all “at your own risk” and that having a passport and visa to hand is essential. Guidance adds that if you are travelling to another country en route to the UK, then you should check travel advice there as well.
The statement adds: “In the event of deterioration in the political or security situation, the British embassy may be increasingly limited in the assistance that it can provide. Do not rely on FCDO being able to evacuate you in an emergency.”
What if you cannot leave Lebanon?
The foreign office states that: “You should have a personal emergency plan that does not rely on the UK Government and be prepared in case you need to leave quickly.”
However, if your circumstances mean that you need to stay in the country, then you should shelter in place if you judge it safe and necessary.
There is also regional advice within Lebanon. The south of the country is considered the most dangerous due to ongoing mortar and artillery exchanges and airstrikes.
“There is also a risk of civil unrest,” foreign office guidance adds. “There have been large protests outside embassies, including outside the US and French embassies on 17 October. Further protests are expected. British nationals should exercise caution and avoid areas where demonstrations may be held.”
You can contact the emergency services by calling 112. If you need urgent help (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +961 (0)1 960 800.