An Israeli Apache helicopter over Israel's border with Lebanon, in northern Israel, on October 18, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia has advised its nationals in Lebanon to leave the country immediately, its embassy in Beirut said on its X account on Wednesday.

“The Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Republic of Lebanon is closely following the developments of the current events in the southern Lebanon region, calling on all citizens to adhere to the travel ban and to leave Lebanese territory immediately for those who are currently in Lebanon,” it said.

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Clashes erupted Tuesday along the Lebanon-Israel border that left five Hezbollah militants dead, marking the largest number of casualties for the militant group in a single day as tensions with Israel escalate.

Israeli forces and armed groups in Lebanon have engaged in a series of low-level skirmishes since the outbreak of the latest war in Gaza between the Israeli military and the Hamas militant group. Hezbollah has announced the death of 10 militants since skirmishes began.

Israeli military Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi threatened that Israel would retaliate aggressively should Hezbollah escalate.

“This is a war on the home,” Halevi said after meeting with Israeli troops near the northern border with Lebanon. “If Hezbollah makes a mistake, it will be annihilated.”

The escalation comes amid fears that the war could spread into Lebanon, where Hezbollah has expressed strong support to the militant Palestinian group Hamas. Israel considers the heavily-armed group in Lebanon an even bigger threat than Hamas. So far, artillery exchanges between Hezbollah and Israel have been limited to several towns along the border.

Israel has threatened that if Hezbollah opens a new front, all of Lebanon will suffer the consequences.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in 2006 that ended in a draw. Since then, apart from limited clashes and escalated rhetoric, Hezbollah’s military caliber has significantly increased, and became a key military actor in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in the region.

The international community has scrambled to keep the war from extending into Lebanon, and possibly the rest of the region.