The embassies of several Gulf states in Beirut, Lebanon, are telling their citizens to leave the country immediately as Syria’s civil war spills over the border.The UAE received information about its nationals being targeted “because of the difficult and sensitive circumstances in Lebanon.”
Saudi Arabia cited “reported threats to kidnap Saudi citizens” in Lebanon, according to BBC News.
In May Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait (along with the UAE) issued similar travel warnings, urging their citizens to avoid travelling to Lebanon – which lies along the western border of Syria – and that those in the country leave immediately.
The evacuation orders come amid reports that armed Shiite clansmen in Lebanon kidnapped more than 20 Syrians “and will hold them until one of their relatives seized by rebels inside Syria is freed,” according to AP.
The kidnappings (or associated threats) may be in response to a Syrian rebel strategy to abduct those perceived as supporters of the embattled Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, specifically Iranians and Lebanese Shiites.
In May the predominantly Sunni rebel force kidnapped 11 Lebanese Shiites as they crossed into Syria from Turkey and earlier this month rebels captured 48 Iranians near Damascus.
Lebanon is deeply divided between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad’s regime. The country, which was devastated by its own 15-year civil war that Syria was deeply involved in, has witnessed clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian groups over the past months, mostly in the northern city of Tripoli.
Assad’s minority Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam that is being actively supported by Shia-dominated Iran and its proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon while predominantly Sunni nations such as Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have strongly supported the rebels.
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