The State Department has ordered all nonessential U.S. government personnel out of Lebanon and approved a voluntary evacuation of Turkey ahead of a possible strike on Syria.
“Given the current tensions in the region, as well as potential threats to U.S. Government facilities and personnel, we are taking these steps out of an abundance of caution to protect our employees and their families, and local employees and visitors to our facilities,” a statement issued on Friday said. “We will continue to assess the situation and to adjust our security posture accordingly.”
Meanwhile, The Associated Press reports that “the Lebanese government’s top security body held an emergency meeting and the Shiite militant group [and Syrian ally] Hezbollah put its fighters on high alert.”
The AP says the step had been considered since last week, when President Obama was mulling a strike against Syria aimed at punishing President Bashar al-Assad for his regime’s use of chemical weapons against the opposition and civilians.
Shortly after the State Department’s announcement on Friday, dozens of pro-Syria protesters gathered for a peaceful demonstration outside the U.S. Embassy in Awkar, east of Beirut, carrying anti-war banners, with some of them with hands painted red to symbolize blood.