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Flee Syria and beware of Lebanon as war drums beat

September 2, 2013 DESTINATION, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has reiterated his warning to Australians to leave Syria as soon as possible, as the likelihood of an American attack on that country increases daily.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) already has a “do not travel” advisory in place for Syria. Fears are growing of a wider war in the Middle East, which (as well as being an awful prospect) would have a severe impact on tourism in the region and beyond.

US President Barack Obama has decided to seek authorisation from Congress before taking military action against Syria, after forces within Syria used chemical weapons against that country’s civilians. US Congress returns from its recess on 9 September, so an attack is unlikely before then.

The war in Syria is already bad for tourism to the Middle East, in more ways than one. The 250x250TICBannerorganised theft of priceless Syrian antiquities, which are often sold on international markets, is growing alarmingly. A report last year said rebel groups fighting to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad had found artefact sales a lucrative source of income to “fund the revolution”. UNESCO Director General for Culture, Francesco Bandarin, has warned that the thefts are causing irreversible damage.

Meanwhile, turmoil continues in Egypt and concern mounts over Lebanon. Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office now advises against all but essential travel to Lebanon “due to the recent upsurge in violence and wider regional tensions”.

DFAT advises Australians to “reconsider their need to travel” to Lebanon. It issued new advice after two bombs targeting separate mosques in Tripoli killed at least 35 people and injured hundreds of others. DFAT advises any Australians travelling to Lebanon to exercise extreme caution as “the ongoing conflict in neighbouring Syria is having a destabilising effect on Lebanon, and violence may spill over without warning”.

DFAT advisories are graded from level 1 to 4 in increasing order of severity. Only one country in the Middle Eastern region is considered safe enough to receive DFAT’s lightest level of advisory: “Exercise normal safety precautions”. That country is Oman.

DFAT advisories sometimes contain warnings not to travel to certain areas within countries.

Current DFAT advisories for the Middle East and the wider region, including parts of Europe, North Africa and Asia, are listed below. For regional variations within countries, consult smarttraveller.gov.au:

Afghanistan: Do not travel.

Algeria: Reconsider your need to travel.

Bahrain: Reconsider your need to travel.

Djibouti: Exercise a high degree of caution.

Egypt: Reconsider your need to travel.

Eritrea: Reconsider your need to travel.

Ethiopia: Reconsider your need to travel.

Iran: Reconsider your need to travel.

Iraq: Do not travel.

Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank: Exercise a high degree of caution.

Jordan: Exercise a high degree of caution.

Kuwait: Exercise a high degree of caution.

Lebanon: Reconsider your need to travel.

Libya: Do not travel.

Mauritania: Reconsider your need to travel.

Morocco: Exercise a high degree of caution.

Oman: Exercise normal safety precautions.

Pakistan: Reconsider your need to travel.

Qatar: Exercise a high degree of caution.

Saudi Arabia: Reconsider your need to travel.

Somalia: Do not travel.

South Sudan: Do not travel.

Sudan: Do not travel.

Syria: Do not travel.

Tunisia: Exercise a high degree of caution.

Turkey: Exercise a high degree of caution.

United Arab Emirates (UAE): Exercise a high degree of caution.

Yemen: Do not travel.

Written by : Peter Needham

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