By Jennifer Hansler and Jack Forrest, CNN
(CNN) — The US State Department is warning Americans not to travel to Lebanon and will allow family members of US government personnel and some non-emergency personnel to voluntarily depart the country “due to the unpredictable security situation.”
The travel advisory level for Lebanon was raised to Level 4: Do Not Travel on Tuesday “due to the unpredictable security situation related to rocket, missile, and artillery exchanges between Israel and Hizballah or other armed militant factions,” according to an updated advisory.
“On October 17, 2023, the Department authorized the voluntary, temporary departure of family members of U.S. government personnel and some non-emergency personnel from U.S. Embassy Beirut due to the unpredictable security situation in Lebanon,” it stated.
The advisory noted that “large demonstrations have erupted in the wake of recent violence in Israel and Gaza.”
After a massive blast at a Gaza hospital on Tuesday was believed to have killed hundreds, protests broke out across the region, including in the West Bank, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and Tunisia. In Lebanon, hundreds of protesters were in the square that led toward the US embassy north of Beirut, with some trying to break through security barriers, according CNN reporters on the ground.
“U.S. citizens should avoid demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings or protests as some of these have turned violent,” the advisory said. “Protesters have blocked major roads, including thoroughfares between downtown Beirut and the area where the U.S. Embassy is located, and between Beirut and Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport.”
The advisory warned that “U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Lebanon should be aware that consular officers from the U.S. Embassy are not always able to travel to assist them.”
“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. The internal security policies of the U.S. Embassy may be adjusted at any time and without advance notice,” it said.
Last week, the State Department raised the travel advisory for Israel to Level 3: Reconsider Travel. The advisory for Gaza remains at the most severe – Level 4: Do Not Travel.
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CNN’s Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.