Britons urged to steer clear of Middle East as crisis deepens
BRITISH travellers have been urged to stay away from the Middle East as the crisis continues to deepen.
The Foreign Office said today that the situation is under close review and urged anyone in the area to be prepared to "get ready for departure at short notice".
The warning comes as an emergency United Nations security council meeting was held last night where Lebanese special envoy Nouhad Mahmoud warned that Israeli attacks "will not resolve the problem, but further complicate it".
This morning, Israeli warplanes renewed attacks on Lebanon, targeting bridges, fuel storage tanks and petrol stations in the east and south.
Hezbollah's Al Manar television station said at least three people were killed in an Israeli air strike in Hermel, in the eastern Bekaa Valley.
Four Israeli soldiers are missing after a vessel off the Lebanese coast was struck by a missile fired by Hezbollah militants.
A Foreign Office spokesman said that the estimated 10,000 Britons in Lebanon needed to get travel documents together and be prepared for a quick exit. He added: "If you are currently in Lebanon, you should stay put for the time being, exercise caution, keep in touch with the Embassy and heed local advice."
At a press conference with the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Blair called for calm following Thursday's air strikes. He said: "I want to emphasise just how serious I think this is.
"I entirely understand the desire, and indeed need, for Israel to defend itself properly and I also understand the plight of Lebanon and the Lebanese government, not to say the many Palestinians that suffer as well.
"The only way we are going to get this situation resolved is if we support the UN mission, get some calm into the situation and then as soon as possible - and I want to emphasise how important I think this is for world security - get back in to the road map towards a two-state solution that offers the only chance for stability and peace in the future."
Mr Blair also refused to condemn any of the parties involved for the situation. He said: "We are not having to make the decisions in that situation.
"The fact is that there is immense pressure both on the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinians and now, of course, the Lebanese government."
The United Nations Security Council met last night, on the request of Lebanon, to discuss the deepening crisis.
At the meeting, special envoy Mahmoud hit out against the recent Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians and infrastructure. He said: "The security council meets in the shadow of a widespread barbaric aggression waged by Israel to this very moment against my nation.
"What Israel is undertaking is an act of aggression and devastation aimed at bringing Lebanon to its knees and subverting it by any means."
Today Mr Blair was set to fly into Russia for a G8 summit in St Petersburg. It is expected to focus on energy and world trade, but Oxfam has called on the world leaders to prioritise talk on action in the Middle East.
The charity's head of policy, Jo Leadbeater, said: "This meeting is happening against a backdrop of rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crises which the G8 leaders must not turn their back on."
The meeting takes place as residents on each side of the Israeli-Lebanese border today brace themselves for more violence after Hezbollah's chief declared open war on Israel following its bombardment of his Beirut home and stronghold. Sayyed Hassan said: "You wanted open war. We are going to open war."
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Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 21 C
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Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
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