Last night, in the final hours of the 3rd anniversary of the Beirut port explosion, the Saudi embassy released a “dramatic” statement, urging its citizens to leave Lebanese territory immediately and without delay.
As a result, the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Lebanon also issued a similar message, advising its citizens to exercise caution and steer clear of areas prone to confrontations. While this message is more measured than the Saudi one and does not explicitly call for Emirati citizens to leave Lebanon, the timing did its thing…
These two messages have generated a lot of concern among many Lebanese citizens, evident in the extensive discussions conducted by analysts and numerous media outlets in Lebanon, attempting to decipher the implications of these messages and the reasoning behind their exceptional timing (why in the middle of the night, for instance? What’s the urgency?)
Messages of this nature, especially in Lebanon, and during such times, are fertile ground for rumors and conspiracy theories on social media.
One of the leading rumors that gained traction in Lebanon was that Israel preemptively informed Saudi Arabia of a planned attack in Lebanon. Consequently, Saudi Arabia issued the statement.
Analysts and writers associated with Hezbollah worked hard throughout the night to dispel this rumor, emphasizing that it’s unlikely that Israel would share such information with the Saudis – “The Israelis act independently for their interests.” The same pro-Hezbollah reporters also noted that there are very few Saudi citizens in Lebanon, therefore claiming that the statement was likely meant to instill fear in Lebanese citizens, while noting that “Saudi Arabia’s motives should be examined.”
Another Lebanese commentator wrote on the subject: “It’s not like we’re living in Ibiza; we shouldn’t be surprised by tension… The regional situation isn’t good, the internal situation isn’t good, the situation on the border (with Israel – Abu Ali) isn’t good, and the economic situation isn’t good either.” The commentator added that Lebanon is in the midst of a political crisis, with no elected president and pressure from various sources (both internal and external) to appoint one. He also noted that currently Lebanon doesn’t have a central bank governor, and that the country is on the verge of a financial catastrophe. If that’s not enough, the Lebanese pundit also noted that there’s also the impact of the recent clashes in the Palestinian Ein al-Khilweh refugee “camp” in southern Lebanon.
In other words, the commentator states: “We all understand that the situation is dire, so the Saudi statement shouldn’t surprise anyone.” While this may be a rational explanation, it probably hasn’t really fully convinced the concerned Lebanese people.