British tourists have been told to avoid all travel to Lebanon due to fears that Syrian violence could spill across the border.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has updated its travel advice, stating that Britons should avoid all but essential travel to the whole country following a “recent upsurge in violence and wider regional tensions”.
The FCO also warned: “There may be an increased risk of anti-western sentiment linked to the possibility of military action in Syria.”
Parts of the country had already been designated off-limits with British travelers advised not to travel within 5km of the Syria border and to avoid the Lebanese coastal city of Tripoli, the Bekaa Valley and the southern suburbs of Beirut.
A spokesperson for the FCO confirmed: “We have today changed our travel advice to Lebanon to advise against all but essential travel. This is based on the recent upsurge in violence in Lebanon and regional tensions.”
The militant Hezbollah group, which has links to Iran and is supportive of the Assad regime in Syria, is based in Lebanon and insecurity in the region has caused divides in the country.
There are fears that a possible western attack on Syria could cause Hezbollah to retaliate with an attack on Israel.
Violence has already escalated in recent days, with two powerful explosions at two mosques in the northern port city of Tripoli which killed at least 43 people.
Tom Fletcher, the British Ambassador to Lebanon tweeted: “We have taken tough call to change our advice temporarily, & discourage travel to Lebanon.”
In a blog post he elaborated, explaining: “For Brits intending to travel to Lebanon, this means that you need to assess whether your trip really is essential. For Brits already in Lebanon, you should consider whether it’s essential that you remain for the coming period.
“We don’t take these decisions lightly, and we very much hope this is a temporary measure.”
Lebanon is famous for its Phoenician and Roman ruins, with the temples of Baalbeck and Byblos and the city ruins of Anjar declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The capital, Beirut, has also traditionally been a popular city with foreign visitors for both its opulent architecture and favorable location on the Mediterranean coast. It has long been known as “The Paris of the Middle East”, but in recent years has suffered from instability in the region, which has significantly affected its tourism market.