U.S., France warn against all Lebanon travel as Israel-Hamas conflict deepens

Click to play video: 'Israel-Hamas conflict: Combatting misinformation with open-source intelligence'
Israel-Hamas conflict: Combatting misinformation with open-source intelligence
WATCH — Israel-Hamas conflict: Combatting misinformation with open source intelligence – Oct 18, 2023

The United States and France are warning their citizens against all travel to Lebanon amid fears the Israel-Hamas conflict could spread throughout the region.

Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militant group based in southern Lebanon, has been exchanging fire with Israel’s military at the border in recent days, igniting worries of a wider conflict in the area as the country prepares to launch an expected ground offensive against Hamas.

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Biden says U.S. ‘pursuing every avenue’ to ensure Hamas hostages released, return home safely

Hamas, a militant group based in Gaza, carried out a surprise deadly attack in southern Israel Oct. 7 that shook the Middle East and has left thousands dead on both sides in the aftermath: 1,300 dead from the attack in Israel, and roughly 3,000 dead in Gaza, according to authorities for both.

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“Do not travel to Lebanon due to the unpredictable security situation related to rocket, missile, and artillery exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah or other armed militant factions,” an advisory issued by the U.S. State Department on Tuesday evening reads.

Click to play video: 'Navigating the Middle East travel woes'
Navigating the Middle East travel woes

Furthermore, it has authorized the departure of family members of U.S. government personnel and some non-emergency personnel on a case-by-case basis.

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Meanwhile, the French foreign ministry on Wednesday also advised its citizens against all travel to Lebanon, unless impossible otherwise, given the “security tensions in the region, especially at the southern border of Lebanon.”

As of Wednesday morning, Ottawa’s travel advisory for Lebanon remained as avoiding all non-essential travel. Global Affairs Canada did not immediately return Global News’ comment request about whether that will be changed to a full do-not-travel advisory for the country.

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“The security situation can deteriorate without warning. Regional advisories are in effect and you should continue to avoid all travel south of the Litani River,” Ottawa’s travel advisory currently reads.

“In the event that the armed conflict intensifies, commercial means to depart the country may be impacted. The Government of Canada’s ability to provide consular services during an active conflict, including evacuation of citizens, may be limited.”

Click to play video: 'Montreal’s Lebanese community on edge after Ottawa issues advisory against non-essential travel'
Montreal’s Lebanese community on edge after Ottawa issues advisory against non-essential travel

Ottawa did tell its citizens in Lebanon on Tuesday to leave the country while commercial flights were still available.

Tear gas was fired near the U.S. embassy in Lebanon at protesters following a blast at a Gaza hospital on Tuesday, Reuters reported Wednesday. More than 100 protesters had gathered near the U.S. embassy in Awkar, on the edges of Beirut, carrying Palestinian flags and angry over the hospital strike. Others gathered outside the French embassy in Beirut.

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Hezbollah called for “a day of unprecedented anger” Wednesday against Israel and U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to the country, Reuters reported.

Hezbollah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006, made the call for the day of protest in Beirut in a statement late on Tuesday, after Palestinian officials said hundreds of people were killed in the hospital blast.

Israel’s military denied responsibility for the bombing, saying military intelligence suggested the hospital was hit by a failed rocket launch by the enclave’s Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group. Islamic Jihad denied that any of its rockets were involved in the hospital blast.

Click to play video: 'Hezbollah ‘fully ready’ to carry out action when time comes, deputy chief says'
Hezbollah ‘fully ready’ to carry out action when time comes, deputy chief says

In the most serious flare-up at the frontier in 17 years, Hezbollah and Israeli forces have traded fire almost daily since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel responded with fierce air strikes on Gaza.

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The Israeli army, which said it would shoot anyone coming near the border or meddling with its fence, said it killed four people on Tuesday who had tried to cross the barrier and plant an explosive device. It did not say where this took place.

Hezbollah confirmed that five of its fighters had been killed but it was not immediately clear if any of them were the same ones referred to by Israel.

Israel has said it has no interest in waging a war with Hezbollah, and if the group restrained itself then Israel would keep the situation along the border as it is. But the army has also said it is fully prepared and deployed at the border.

— with files from Reuters

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