Flights still taking off for Lebanon after UAE travel warning

Lebanese soldiers take position in Tripoli's Sunni neighbourhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh. Fresh sectarian clashes erupted between pro- and anti-Syrian districts in the north Lebanon port city of Tripoli, leaving at least one person dead and seven wounded, a security official said. (AFP)

It’s business as usual for the UAE’s major carriers, which are continuing normal flight operations to Lebanon after a travel warning was issued by the government yesterday.

The travel warning was also issued by Qatar and Bahrain, warning citizens from travelling to the Levant state, citing security concerns.

The levels have been raised as a direct result of the on-going violence in neighbouring Syria, which many insiders say has spilled over in to Lebanon.

However, despite the strife, flights to Lebanon from the UAE have not been affected.

An Emirates spokesperson told Emirates 24|7: "Emirates services to Lebanon are operating as scheduled. Passengers who wish to rebook their flight should contact their local Emirates office."

A spokesperson from Etihad Airways said: “There is no change on flight schedules currently. All flights to Lebanon are taking off as usual.”

While a flydubai spokesperson said: “Our flights between Dubai and Beirut are operating to schedule and we continue to monitor the situation.”

Sharjah-based Air Arabia concurred with a spokesperson saying: “Flights are still taking off as usual to Lebanon with Air Arabia, but we are closely monitoring the situation and should the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority issue a directive then we will abide by those rules.”

He added that the airline is also “ready to offer assistance to UAE citizens” who are attempting to fly out of Lebanon since violence has escalated in some pockets of the country.

The northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon is in the midst of the heavy fighting in the country this past week, which left 10 people dead, one reportedly today in fresh clashes.

Meanwhile, mixed reactions are coming forth from Lebanese nationals, many of whom are urging authorities not to be too harsh on the country, yet appealing to its government to take action.

“The travel warning is a bit harsh I feel,” said Noora A, a long-time UAE resident who has summer plans to return home next month.

“It is terrible to hear about the violence unfolding in Tripoli, but overall, the country is a peace loving nation and I urge everyone to give our government a chance to do things right.”

Another Lebanese national, Wissam Khoury stated: “I am worried about my Beirut trip next week. Even though airlines are continuing with operations, things could change next week. I appeal to our government to bring peace back into our homes.”

However, Fadi Saad said: “I think the travel warning may work well in Lebanon’s favour long term, because it is the kick needed for the government to take action and start policing the streets and keep residents safe.”

Twitter is also abuzz with the news of the situation as it unfolds in the country, with Zeina Khodr tweeting earlier today: “Lebanon national news agency said dozens of families fled from Tripoli to Dinniyeh; they fear security situation could worsen [sic].”

Meanwhile, Jenan R tweeted: “Heavy security deployment in Halba as festival of SSNP and that of MP Khaled Daher’s partisans kick off.”

Karim Mufti added: “Thank you Qatar, UAE, Bahrain; maybe the Lebanon political class will understand this time to hold their warring horses in order to keep their wealth.”

Countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have also issued travel warnings for Lebanon, while early media reports are suggesting that all the GCC states may be following suit.

Saudi Arabia has already issued a warning to its nationals to avoid Lebanon’s border areas following the hostage situation where two of its citizens were kidnapped and tortured by extremists, before the duo were set free in a joint operation after eight days, led by the Kingdom and Lebanon.

The latest target was a Qatari national who was reportedly kidnapped in Lebanon recently, while another story alleges that the national was in the country for a liver transplant but was barred from leaving Lebanon until authorities intervened.

UAE issues travel warning for Lebanon

The UAE and Qatar have urged their citizens to stay away from Lebanon, citing security concerns in a country where fighting prompted by sectarian tensions in neighbouring Syria has unsettled areas near a northern port.

The two Gulf states' Foreign Ministries urged all those already in Lebanon - a favourite destination for Gulf tourists - to leave because of the "security situation" in the country, the official news agencies QNA and Wam reported.

Heavy fighting has rocked Lebanon's northern port of Tripoli in the past week.

The clashes, mainly between government troops and gunmen in a Sunni Muslim district, have highlighted how violence in Syria can spill into Lebanon, a country that was garrisoned by Syrian troops until 2005.

Tourists from wealthy Gulf states form the bulk of visitors to Lebanon, whose vital tourism industry has been hit hard by unrest in neighbouring Syria.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Lebanon last month warned Saudis to stay away from Lebanon's border areas, after two Saudi citizens were kidnapped and tortured for eight days, before being freed in a joint Saudi-Lebanese operation. (Reuters)