BEIRUT/MASNAA, Lebanon: The simultaneous influx of Syrians and exodus of Lebanese and foreigners anticipated in the face of the still present, although now delayed, threat of Western military intervention in Syria had not yet materialized Sunday.
A source from the General Security’s post at the Masnaa border crossing with Syria told The Daily Star that arrivals and departures remained unaffected in the wake of United States President Barack Obama’s speech Saturday evening.
In his speech, Obama announced he would seek congressional approval on intervention in Syria before taking any action.
The General Security source said there were still approximately 10,000 Syrians coming into Lebanon daily and almost a similar figure leaving.
Though the threat of U.S. military action has been delayed, some states were still encouraging their citizens to leave Lebanon.
Kuwait Ambassador in Beirut Abdulaal Al-Qenae said his country had set up a room at the Beirut airport to facilitate the departures of citizens from Lebanon, according to the Kuwaiti state-run news agency KUNA.
Qenae said more than 300 citizens had already left Lebanon and urged nationals to return home as quickly as possible in order to ensure their safety, KUNA reported.
Despite renewed travel advisories from several Western and Gulf countries, Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport appeared free of travelers exiting on the basis of security concerns Sunday afternoon.
The departure terminal was busy but not crowded as relaxed-looking passengers filed through security. No one The Daily Star spoke to said that the security situation in the country or updated travel advisories had influenced their decision to travel at this time.
Boarding a flight to Saudi Arabia, Maha, and her adult daughters Anoud and Johara, acknowledged that they had been advised not to travel to Lebanon but said they had chosen to do so regardless, making a five-day stop in the country en route back from their summer in London.
“We’re not scared,” she said. “Guess what? We even partied in Beirut.”
A Lebanese father traveling with two young boys said he was headed to Europe but that the trip had been planned since the beginning of the year and had nothing to do with security issues.
Notable at the airport however was the large proportion of travelers who had come overland from Damascus to fly out of Beirut.
Rana Ali arrived from Syria with her three children and was on her way back to Cyprus, where she has residency, “for a second year because of the war.”
Omar Zaza came from Damascus en route to Amman. But the 20-year-old said he was traveling to commence his studies in the Jordanian capital and that impending U.S. strikes had nothing to do with his decision to leave.
Another Syrian man, leaving with his young wife and daughter for a university program in Hong Kong, said that with airlines no longer flying to Damascus, Syrians must choose between traveling to Beirut or Amman to board flights. He said that from the Syrian capital it was easier and safer to reach Beirut.