Cyprus (Security threat level – 2): On 3 December 2018, employees of bus companies in Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos launched strikes to demand their November salaries. The Greek Cypriot government signed off on a financial disbursement to the bus companies in Larnaca and Limassol and stated that the salaries would be paid by 6 December; the Larnaca participants subsequently announced that they were canceling their action, but those in Limassol and Paphos stated that they will continue striking until they receive payment. The strikes have affected thousands of passengers in the three regions.
France (Security threat level – 3): On 4 December 2018, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the six-month suspension of a planned fuel tax increase. The increase — which was scheduled to go into effect in January 2019 — sparked the “yellow vest” protest movement. Nevertheless, reports suggest that the announcement will likely not fully appease protesters, as the tax is only suspended at this time and not canceled. Protesters participating in the recent demonstrations have also taken up other anti-government causes, further reducing the likelihood that the tax suspension will fully restore calm. In a sign of concern over the potential for additional protests, a professional domestic league soccer match scheduled to take place at Paris’ Parc des Princes stadium on 8 December has been postponed.
France (Security threat level – 3): On 4 December 2018, students in cities across France continued protests against new university entrance requirements. Students blocked entrances to dozens of schools and there were isolated instances of violence in several cities. In Toulouse, students set fire to a school building, partially burning the structure. Protesters overturned cars in Orleans and authorities temporarily closed the main bus station in the city due to the unrest; the station has since been reopened. In Nice, students marched through streets and on tramway tracks toward Garibaldi Square, disrupting traffic in the city and operations on tram line 1. In addition, Nice authorities closed the Promenade du Paillon, the Christmas Village and Phoenix Park as a precaution. In Paris, students protested in the Seine-Saint-Denis, Aubervilliers, Pantin and Saint-Ouen areas; isolated clashes were reported between protesters and security forces. Violent clashes were also reported in Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux. Approximately 600 students participated in a demonstration in front of the town hall in Cannes; however, the protest ended peacefully. While reports indicate that the student protests are inspired by the “yellow vest” fuel price protests that began on 17 November, it is unclear if the movements are connected.
Israel / Lebanon (Security threat levels – 3 / 4): On 4 December 2018, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) announced that it has begun an operation — codenamed “Northern Shield” — aimed at eliminating the militant group Hizballah’s network of currently non-operational cross-border tunnels from Lebanon. The IDF confirmed the operation is confined within Israel’s borders and will not cross into Lebanon. Israeli officials have closed airspace near the Lebanese border until 1700 local time (1500 UTC) on 5 December. The operation is largely concentrated in the area surrounding Metula, located in the northernmost portion of the Galilee panhandle. Residents in the affected area are not currently subject to any evacuation orders.
Meanwhile, officials with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stated that the Israeli military informed them of their operation and confirmed that Israeli operations at the present time are focused south of the Israeli border with Lebanon, known as the Blue Line.
Analyst Comment: While an Israeli conflict with Hizballah does not appear imminent, travelers to Lebanon and Israel should monitor the situation closely.
Zimbabwe (Security threat level – 4): According to reports on 4 December 2018, an ongoing doctors strike is significantly disrupting the provision of services at public hospitals throughout Zimbabwe. The doctors began the labor action on 2 December to demand higher pay, better working conditions and improved access to medical equipment and pharmaceuticals. According to the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, most junior doctors are participating in the strike, while more than half of senior doctors are also taking part. The union stated that the strike will continue indefinitely until the government adequately addresses its members’ demands. This is the second time in 2018 that doctors have gone on strike in Zimbabwe. The previous labor action began on 1 March and ended on 3 April after the government pledged to increase on-call allowances and improve equipment and drug availability.
Democratic Republic Of The Congo (Security threat level – 5): On 3 December 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa issued a Security Alert that reads in part as follows:
Security threat levels range from 1 (Very Low) to 5 (Very High) and are determined using a comprehensive system that utilizes both qualitative and quantitative analysis. The primary factors used to determine a location’s security threat level are Armed Conflict, Crime, Demonstrations/Strikes, Ethnic/Sectarian Tensions, Graft/Corruption, Kidnapping, Political Instability, Government Restriction and Terrorism.