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Israeli-Hamas War: Should Nigerians in Lebanon Return?

In light of a recent attack by Israel, the governments of Germany and Canada have recommended the immediate departure of their citizens from Lebanon. This advisory comes in the wake of a stark vow by Hezbollah, an armed Lebanese group, to seek retribution for an Israeli airstrike that resulted in the death of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in Lebanon.

THE ISSUE:

The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is known to be one of the world’s longest-continuing conflicts. In 2023, the conflict escalated to deadly heights when the Palestinian group Hamas caught Israel off guard by launching an armed attack known as “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood”. 3,000 militants had breached the Gaza–Israel barrier, attacking Israeli communities and military bases. The death toll amounted to 695 Israeli civilians, 373 soldiers, and 71 foreigners killed, totalling 1,139 casualties. An estimated 240 Israeli soldiers, civilians, and foreigners were taken to the Gaza Strip as hostages, with the stated goal of forcing Israel to release Palestinian prisoners. Israel responded with war, deploying its finest munitions.

The now almost 9-month-old war has taken about 22,000 Palestinians and Israelis’ lives, yet tensions continue to escalate. Wednesday saw an airstrike that resulted in the death of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri. Israel has not claimed responsibility for the killing, but speculations abound that Israeli military and officials are simply being silent about the matter.

The airstrike in question targeted a Hamas office in southern Beirut, Lebanon, and killed Saleh al-Arouri, who was not only the deputy leader of Hamas but also a founding member of the al-Qassam Brigades. Alongside him, al-Qassam commanders Samir Findi and Azzam al-Aqra also lost their lives. The incident has brought the toll of Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon to nine.

Al-Arouri’s death is seen as a significant setback for Hamas, given his influential role in the West Bank and his position as the second in command of the political bureau. Moreover, he was an important link in the relationship between Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran.

Following the incident, the leader of Hezbollah, an armed Lebanese group, issued a statement condemning the attack. He remarked that the airstrike was a grave violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty, security, and resistance – and that such shows of aggression would not be tolerated. The leader, Hassan Nasrallah, reiterated his group’s commitment to retaliate, emphasizing that any warfare against Lebanon would be met with unrestrained and fearless resistance. Nasrallah’s words were firm, indicating a readiness for conflict and a refusal to be intimidated or deterred by the prospect of war. Neither Israel nor Hamas has responded to Hassan’s proclamations.

Against this backdrop of escalating tensions and the potential for an intensified conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, both Germany and Canada have renewed their warnings. These warnings were first issued on October 23, two weeks after Hamas attacked Israel. The increasing border tensions were cited as the reason for the warning. With increased risks and the uncertain security situation in Lebanon, the government yet again demonstrates serious concerns about the safety and well-being of its citizens in the region.

WHICH WAY NIGERIANS?

Judging by past events, it may be unwise for Nigerians in Lebanon to rely fully on the Nigerian government for the dissemination of information or a possible evacuation.

It is as an X user, Samuel Ajayi, puts it: “Nigerians in Lebanon, I think it’s time to leave. Other countries are already calling their citizens to leave, don’t wait for the Nigerian government o”.

While the possibility of an escalated Israeli-Hezbollah conflict is still speculation, it will be best for Nigerians in Beirut or surrounding areas to err on the side of caution. Paying close attention to relevant news outlets and preparing an escape or “go” bag are important considerations. As events unfold, we will keep you updated.

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