Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Beirut does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BEIRUT AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Lebanon-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Between 2015 and 2016, there were slight decreases in all crime categories. Low-level criminal activities (burglary, petty theft, street crimes) continue to remain common, but they have seen decreases since 2015. In previous years, many crimes were non-confrontational; in 2016, kidnapping for ransom, armed robberies, bank robberies, and other physical assaults continued to see a slight decline in comparison to 2015 crime statistics. Vehicle thefts and break-ins have also declined. Only a small percentage of stolen vehicles are recovered.
Criminal activity tied to drug use and narcotics distributions are the only two crime categories that saw an increase from 2014 to 2016. In 2016, murders dropped slightly from 2015, but in comparison to 2014, murders fell approximately 35%.
There are several criminally-oriented families, clans, and gangs that had operated without regard to the law; enforcement action against these families continues to be uneven or difficult. These families orchestrate car theft, narcotics trafficking, and kidnappings. Criminal gangs are believed to be behind a high number of unsolved crimes.
Credit card skimming, email phishing, and other cyber and financial type scams occur. Several Embassy personnel have reported issues with credit/bank cards being compromised.
Email scams are frequent and have affected local and foreign businesses. Caution should be taken when an email is coming from an unknown individual or organization. Attachments should not be opened unless scanned first, even if the originator is a known email as email accounts can be broken into.
Other Areas of Concern
The Department of State considers the threat to U.S. government personnel in Beirut serious and requires personnel to live and work under strict security restrictions. Off-compound movement by official Americans is always done in armored vehicles with armed security personnel. All travel must be approved in advance. These practices limit, and may prevent, access by U.S. Embassy officials to certain areas of the country.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
The roadways operate unconventionally, with drivers who often maneuver aggressively and pay little regard to the traffic lights/signs. High rates of speed, erratic traffic patterns, poorly marked merges/addresses, inconsistent police enforcement, and little/no enforcement make driving conditions hazardous. Outside greater Beirut, lanes are generally unmarked and may be poorly illuminated. Heavy periods of traffic congestion are most noticeable during the morning and afternoon peak rush hours and during inclement weather.
There is a notable lack of electronic traffic control signals, resulting in frequently erratic traffic patterns and vehicle accidents. Police rarely respond to vehicle accidents. Insurance companies have private accident investigators who respond to accidents and may be biased toward the insured party. Parties involved in traffic accidents usually settle matters among themselves unless significant injury or material damage is involved. Emergency services are adequate.
The Interior Ministry implemented new traffic laws, to include no use of cellphones (calling or texting) while driving. The Interior Ministry has begun to make aggressive strides in traffic enforcement, to include increased check points and the issuance of traffic violations.
In case of a road accident, emergency numbers are 140 for the Red Cross and 125 for the emergency civil police.
Public Transportation Conditions
Public mass transit is non-existent. There are privately-owned shuttle companies that have schedules, but U.S. citizens are advised to be extremely cautious when using transport and to call for taxi service or utilize a car-for-hire service rather than flagging down passing taxis or service cars. Uber is present and is widely used.
In 2016, local media reports expressed concern over the quality of security at the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport (RHIA). Embassy personnel use the airport for official and personal travel to/from Lebanon. In January 2017, RHIA began the implementation of the Advance Passenger Information (API)/Passenger Name Record (PNR) program.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BEIRUT AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
Several designated terrorist organizations remain active. Hamas, Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (JFS, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), al-Qa’ida, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), Asbat al-Ansar, Fatah al-Islam (FAI), Fatah al-Intifada, Jund al-Sham, the Ziyad al-Jarrah Battalions, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Abdullah Azzam Brigade (AAB), and several other splinter groups operate within Lebanon’s borders. Hezbollah, which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization, is a political party with representation in Lebanon's cabinet and parliament.
Many transnational terrorist groups train, operate, or are based in Lebanon. Poor border security, easy access to weapons/munitions, and numerous areas of non-government control create the ideal environment for terrorist organizations to transit or prepare for operations. The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests in Lebanon. The Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces routinely execute counter-terrorism operations, including several recent high profile operations against al-Nusra and ISIS.
- In January 2017, Lebanese security services thwarted a suicide attack in the al-Hamra area of Beirut that reportedly had to ISIS.
- On November 12, 2015, multiple ISIS suicide bombers detonated themselves in Beirut’s southern suburbs, killing over 40 people and wounding hundreds.
- Since 2014, there have been a number of bombings in the mostly Shia neighborhoods of southern Beirut.
- Since the spring of 2014, authorities have become more proficient at preventing VBIED attacks in their continued effort to combat terrorism.
- Multiple improvised explosive devices were neutralized by able and well-trained police Explosives Ordinance Disposal (EOD) teams in 2014.
In the central part of the Bekaa, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks have occurred over the past three years. The attacks are thought to be carried out by militant groups. Some of the recent attacks occurred in the Chtoura and Masnaa areas.
- In 2016, two IED attacks occurred: one in September in Masnaa and one in August near Haouch el Oumar.
- In 2015, the area saw an IED discovered in October and one detonated in September. The delivery of the IED ranges from the device being set up roadside or attached to a vehicle.
In August 2015, the government, with Qatar as a mediator, conducted a prisoner swap with al-Nusra for the release of Lebanese soldiers taken hostage in Arsal in August 2014.
Hezbollah entered the Syrian Civil War in support of Bashar Assad’s regime and continues to send fighter to Syria. Hezbollah and pro-regime forces clashed with ISIS and JSF on the eastern border with Syria in 2015, and continuing clashes are anticipated.
The threat of terrorist activity against Americans continues to exist. The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of safety and security concerns in the Travel Warning. Internal security policies limit, and may prevent, access by U.S. Embassy officials to certain areas of the country.
Current information suggests that ISIS and its affiliates continue to plan terrorist attacks against areas Westerns frequent. Extremists may elect to employ various methods to attack (suicide, conventional bombings, assassinations, kidnappings). U.S. citizens who ignore active Travel Warnings should be aware of the potential for terrorist attacks and take precautions (varying routes/times, avoiding demonstrations) to remain safe.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BEIRUT AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Protestors have used burning tires and large objects to obstruct roadways; this style of protest typically lasts for a few hours to an entire day.
- The summer of 2015 witnessed several large-scale protests in downtown Beirut where the number of protestors reached up to 15,000. These protests were organized to show discontent with the government’s handling of a garbage crisis.
Protestors also cause congestion by vehicular protests wherein several hundred protestors flood streets with their privately-owned vehicles and drive in a parade-like fashion around densely populated neighborhoods. These vehicular protests were frequent in July 2015.
Lebanon is a fragile state characterized by sectarian divisions and pressures from external and internal forces that limit the government’s ability to function. Factionalism and sectarianism result in frequent political paralysis. In addition, sectarian issues can result in the outbreak of violence, evidenced by the Lebanese Civil War and more recently between feuding Sunni and Shia organizations. However, Lebanon’s internal security situation has remained relatively calm.
With the increase of sanctions against members of Hezbollah, there has been concern throughout the banking industry. Some issues have arisen due to the sanctions.
Drug trafficking across the Lebanese-Syrian border continues to be a problem and is, in large part, due to the absence of effective border controls. Additionally, Lebanon is a transit country for cocaine and heroin, with Lebanese nationals operating in concert with drug traffickers from Colombia and elsewhere in South America. Captagon, which is popular throughout the Middle East, is manufactured in Lebanon and Syria and is trafficked outside of Lebanon and distributed throughout the region.
Extremist groups who operate in Lebanon have used the kidnapping of American/Western citizens to bolster political or international attention, and it remains a constant threat throughout the country. Kidnappings linked to carjacking and taxi robberies have been reported.
The U.S. government maintains excellent relations with host country law enforcement and security elements. Urgent security concerns (demonstrations) are immediately addressed by security services. Overall, police are responsive and have made significant improvements in rendering police assistance, though they may have difficulty responding to crimes depending on the time of day and location. This may lead to diminished levels of service and cases going unsolved or unresolved.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
If you are arrested, make sure that every effort is made to contact the U.S. Embassy on your behalf. Although the police services do take measures to notify the Embassy in the event of an arrest of an American citizen, this may not always be the case depending on time, place, and circumstance.
Crime Victim Assistance
If you are the victim of a crime, you should contact the local police and the U.S. Embassy. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, Embassy personnel can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
The local emergency line is 112.
Police Emergency Numbers:
Beirut ISF: 01/425250
Beirut Emergency Police: 112
Tareek El-Jdideh/Beirut: 01/858811
Hobeiche Police Station: 01/740925
Explosive Ordnance Disposal: 01/601930/1
When Dialing from a Cell Phone:
Emergency Police Department (ISF): 999
Information Department: 120
Civil Defense (Fire and Rescue): 125
Lebanese Red Cross: 140
Ambulance Service (Red Cross headquarters): 140
Medical care in Beirut and the surrounding area is considered good. Many hospitals have modern equipment and well-trained physicians. Most major U.S. medical insurance is accepted, but travelers are encouraged to check with their provider, as payment will still be expected at the time of service. Long-term visitors are encouraged to become familiar with hospitals near their homes and places of employment.
Contact Information for Recommended Hospital/Clinics
A list of English speaking doctors and specialists can be found on the Embassy website.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Lebanon.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Beirut Country Council currently meets quarterly and has an approximate 90 members. The Council Steering Committee meets on a quarterly basis. Please contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa team or Regional Security Office with any questions or to join.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
The Embassy is located in Awkar, off the Dbayeh highway, facing the Awkar Municipal Building.
U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon
Address: Awkar facing the Municipality
P.O. Box 70-840 Antelias
Embassy Contact Numbers
Regional Security Officer:04/542600, ext. 4205
Medical Unit: 04/542600, ext. 4302
Consular Affairs: 04/542600, ext. 4380
Security Operations Center (24/7): 04/542600, ext. 4555
U.S. citizens should register with STEP and reference the State Department Travel Warning when visiting or residing in Lebanon.
Lebanon Country Information Sheet