Lebanon issues 'precautionary' evacuation measures for Beirut airport

The measures were announced as airlines reduce flights and US warns citizens to leave the country

A general view shows Beirut international airport, Lebanon June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
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Lebanon’s authorities on Friday issued “precautionary” guidance on evacuating Beirut's international airport in the event that exchanges of fire across the Lebanese-Israeli border escalate into full-blown conflict.

The caretaker Minister of Works and Transport, Ali Hamieh, said the guidelines were issued as a “precautionary measure” under the government's national emergency plan in case of further conflict. He said the airport was continuing to operate normally.

The guidelines include instructions for people in the airport to follow specified paths to safe places without using elevators “in the event that the airport or its surroundings are subjected to any external attack”.

“The circular issued by its presidency at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport and directed to airlines, ground service companies and its investors, comes in the context of the precautionary measures and measures prepared within the emergency plan. The airport is still continuing its work and its assigned tasks,” Mr Hamieh said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah paramilitary and the Israeli military have been exchanging fire since October 8, after Israel launched a war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for attacks a day earlier by the Palestinian militant group that killed more than 1,400 people in southern Israel. Many fear Lebanon could become a new front in the war.

Beirut's airport came under Israeli attack during the month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.

Several foreign airlines have suspended or reduced flights and cancelled connections through Beirut due to the conflict in south Lebanon, while the national carrier, Middle East Airlines, has moved most of its fleet to nearby countries. Several western countries have issued travel warnings for Lebanon.

In a new email sent by the US Embassy on Friday evening, the US State Department recommended that citizens in Lebanon “leave now, while commercial flights remain available, due to the unpredictable security situation”.

It was the latest in a slew of US advisories issued in recent weeks.

“You should have a plan of action for crisis situations that does not rely on US government assistance,” the email said. “There is no guarantee the US government will evacuate private US citizens and their family members in a crisis situation.”

Updated: October 28, 2023, 1:08 PM