Gulf Citizens Begin Leaving Lebanon amid Saudi Escalation
Dozens of citizens of Gulf Arab countries began leaving Lebanon on Friday after their governments ordered them to leave the Mediterranean country, as President Michel Aoun called for the return of Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri who mysteriously resigned from the Saudi capital last week.
Firebrand Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan warned earlier this month that his government would deal with Lebanon as a hostile state as long as Hizbullah was in the Lebanese government.
Dozens of men, women and children from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain were seen leaving Lebanon on Friday morning through Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport, after their countries ordered them to leave Lebanon.
The move was the first concrete action against Lebanon after days of Saudi government officials leveling threats against the country.
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah blasted Saudi Arabia in a speech on Friday, saying that it is punishing the Lebanese people instead of his group. He said the kingdom has shifted its attention to Lebanon after its 30-month war in Yemen failed to achieve its goals and Saudi-backed rebels in Syria have been suffering setbacks against President Bashar Assad's forces.
Nasrallah claimed that Saudi Arabia has asked Israel to attack Hizbullah in return for billions of dollars. "It is clear that Saudi Arabia... declared war on Lebanon," Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah said that war with Israel is unlikely amid the crisis triggered by Hariri's resignation, adding that Hizbullah is watching carefully for any Israeli attempts to use the crisis to begin hostilities against Lebanon. Nasrallah added that Israel is cautious and unlikely to make such a move.
Many fear the escalation will pave the way for Israel to strike Hizbullah, against which Israel has fought a number of wars.
Nasrallah warned Israel against "miscalculation" or "taking advantage of the situation."