Family members of US government personnel and non-essential embassy staff were allowed to leave Lebanon after the embassy in Beirut was targeted by protestors who started a fire at the complex.
Footage from the ground showed heavy protesting, with those gathered reportedly denouncing US support for Israeli “bombardment of innocent Palestinians” – per ABC News.
The fire was started behind the security gates of the compound, with one protestor also scaling a barbed-wire fence surrounding the building in order to plant a Palestinian flag on the embassy’s flagpole. Tear gas was used by Embassy security officials to disperse protesters.
Hours after the demonstrations began, the State Department issued a ‘do not travel’ advisory “due to the unpredictable security situation related to rocket, missile, and artillery exchanges between Israel and Hizballah or other armed militant factions,” according to the advisory.
“On October 17, 2023, the Department authorized the voluntary, temporary departure of family members of US government personnel and some non-emergency personnel from US Embassy Beirut due to the unpredictable security situation in Lebanon,” the announcement stated.
The advisory noted that “large demonstrations have erupted in the wake of recent violence in Israel and Gaza.”
It continued: “US citizens should avoid demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings or protests as some of these have turned violent.
“Protesters have blocked major roads, including thoroughfares between downtown Beirut and the area where the US Embassy is located, and between Beirut and Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport.”
It warned that: “US citizens who choose to travel to Lebanon should be aware that consular officers from the US Embassy are not always able to travel to assist them.”
“The Department of State considers the threat to US government personnel in Beirut sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under strict security. The internal security policies of the US Embassy may be adjusted at any time and without advance notice.”
The protests came after a blast at a hospital in Gaza on Tuesday was believed to have killed hundreds of people.
Hundreds of protestors gathered outside the US embassy in Beirut, waving Palestinian flags, just hours before President Joe Biden’s visit to neighboring Israel.
Rioters threw what appeared to be Molotov cocktails, according to reports, causing a fire to start inside the embassy compound.
Protestors also blocked roads near the embassy and leading to Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, the State Department said.
Protests also broke out at the French embassy in Beirut, where protestors were seen waving Palestinian flags and a portrait of Mohammed Deif chief of Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing.
Protests broke out across the Middle East on Tuesday night after at least 500 people were killed at the al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza by an explosion, according to Palestinian authorities.
Officials in Gaza said an Israeli airstrike struck the al-Ahli hospital, but the Israeli military said its intelligence shows the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group is responsible, blaming the alleged faulty launch of a rocket intended to hit Israel.
Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah called for “a day of unprecedented anger” in Beirut in response to the explosion at the hospital.
The strike marks the deadliest single incident during the Israel-Hamas war, which broke out on 7 October when Hamas terrorists stormed across the Gaza border into Israel, killing hundreds of people and taking dozens captive.
More than 1,400 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians have been killed since fighting broke out.
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