U.S. State Department Orders Diplomats Out of Lebanon Immediately Over Safety Concerns

On Friday, the State Department ordered all non-essential American diplomats and the families of staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut to leave Lebanon immediately due to security concerns as Congress and the Obama administration weigh whether to launch military strikes on nearby Syria.

Furthermore, the department also authorized the voluntary departure of diplomats and families at the U.S. Consulate in Adana, Turkey, the closest American diplomatic post to Syria in Turkey.

The department is also urging private American citizens to leave Lebanon "due to threats to U.S. mission facilities and personnel" and added:

"The potential in Lebanon for a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains."

A travel warning from the State Dept. read:

"Lebanese government authorities are not able to guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country should violence erupt suddenly. Access to borders, airports, roads and seaports can be interrupted with little or no warning. Public demonstrations occur frequently with little warning and have the potential to become violent. Family, neighborhood or sectarian disputes often escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with little or no warning."

Americans in Lebanon who remain "should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks." They also said that those staying behind "should prepare to depart at short notice."

Hezbollah, an ally of Syria's President Assad, has sent fighters into Syria and is based out of Lebanon. The State Dept. warned:

"The situation remains tense, and sporadic violence involving Hezbollah or other extremist or criminal organizations remains a possibility in many areas of the country."

Just after the announcement, 150 people gathered for a protest near the U.S. Embassy north of Beirut. They held banners that read "The American Embassy is an operations room for the war in Syria", "No to War," and "Your rockets and fleets do not scare us." Others painted their hands red, symbolizing blood.

Dozens of police donned full riot gear and stood on guard, however there were no reports of any violence.

Meanwhile, the department also issued a separate advisory for Turkey in which it announced that it would allow personnel at the Adana consulate to leave their posts and recommended that U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to southeastern Turkey.