According to a report in Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya news channel, whose statements are almost always approved by the Royal government, the Kingdom on Thursday urged its citizens to leave Lebanon immediately and to avoid traveling to the country from any other international destination. The calls for citizens to leave Lebanon comes amid a war of words between Saudi Arabia and Iran and its proxy Hezbollah, and in the wake of the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Saturday. Hariri has been mum since then, and only seen rarely, leading to rumors that he was under house arrest in Saudi Arabia, where he was born and now appears to be staying after his sudden resignation. However, according to Hariri’s own Future Movement party in a tweet yesterday, Hariri has met with the French, US, EU and UK ambassadors to Saudi Arabia.
The recent brewing conflict between Riyadh and Beirut concerns the role of Hezbollah in Lebanese politics. In the last 10 years, Hezbollah has grown in strength in Lebanon to become the main power broker. According to Saudi Arabia, Hezbollah is holding Lebanon hostage to its political whims. This was evident in the struggle for the presidency that left the post open for more than two years until the Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun was elected in October 2016.
In a speech on Sunday after Hariri resigned, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that there were rumors that Saudi Arabia wanted to launch some kind of military operation against Lebanon.
With this travel warning, a military action seems imminent. Kuwait has also ordered its nationals to leave Lebanon. Bahrain has also issued travel warnings.
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