International SOS: “We are working with all scenarios, including regional escalation of the conflict in Israel”

The war in Ukraine and tensions in the Middle East show that conflicts are not a thing of the past. In a complex and turbulent world, any region has the potential to be subject to political or economic instability. The Middle East has now become the region that monopolizes the focus of insecurity as the hostility between the terrorist organization Hamas and the Israeli Army intensifies. Times are tough for companies operating in this space as they try to keep their staff safe and gauge the risks they face. “We are working with all the scenarios right now. The most serious (and also the least likely) is that Israeli forces will eventually come into conflict with Islamist militias in the south. Lebanon and instability spread throughout the region“Santiago Álvarez de Toledo, CEO of International SOS, a multinational organization specializing in country risk in Spain and Portugal, explains. Therefore, the company is preparing evacuations by sea, which are not possible by air. “Due to the closed, unstable situation of airports in Syria “We do not recommend evacuation through,” he states. The last events that took place at the beginning of 2024 were the assassination of one of the leaders of Hamas in Southern Lebanon this Tuesday and the attack in Iran. This Wednesday, in which more than 80 people lost their lives, the event took place in the Middle East. It risks increasing tensions and prolonging the conflict.

International SOS specializes in measuring security risks and also provides medical or evacuation services for foreign personnel working in all corners of the world. It’s one of the most concentrated hotspots in the Middle East right now. “There are companies that have decided to leave Israel due to the escalation of hostilities. We have managed nearly 200 evacuation cases and transported a large number of people. We constantly inform companies that decide to stay about the risks they assume.“says Álvarez de Toledo.

There have been some clashes so far between Islamist militias of the Hezbollah group in southern Lebanon and Israeli forces, but International SOS believes the risk of escalation in the region is limited. “We have not yet identified some points where we will increase the level of risk, for example, open declarations of war or attacks on diplomatic sites,” explains Álvarez de Toledo. Despite this, the company continues to recommend partial evacuation in case hostilities escalate in Lebanon, as they believe that conflicts in the Middle East could escalate very quickly. “They are holding back now, but if one of the rockets launched by Hezbollah falls on Israeli civilians and there are many victims, the Israeli Army will have to intervene.”Álvarez de Toledo says.

This will force an inevitable escalation that could result in the closure of airspace. “Escape from Syria is not recommended, so this has to be done by boat. Since we are planning different scenarios and helping companies estimate the scenarios, we have already contacted local suppliers to find out how much it will cost.“, states Álvarez de Toledo.

Map the risk

International SOS president Santiago Álvarez de Toledo, who worked as an expatriate in Ghana (Africa) for four years, assures that companies should not be afraid to do business in other countries. “You need to map the risk well and know where you are going.. “Spanish companies are becoming less internationalized in Africa and Asia than in other parts of the world, such as Latin America,” he explains. In the West African case, the French were the ones most encouraged to do this for cultural reasons. “This is a market with a lot of medical risks. You have to take into account the health risks, the parasites that can be transmitted, malaria…”, lists Álvarez de Toledo.

To provide service, International SOS has over 1,000 security providers worldwide and works with 12,000 customers. “We were employed by the American Government and also by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Unlike insurance, we serve clients directly and offer a comprehensive service. We even advised a client who was surprised by a terrorist attack on a hotel in Bamako (Mali). He called us on the phone and so we gave instructions on how to hide it until we could send someone to get it,” says Álvarez de Toledo.

The company’s president also emphasizes its agility in predicting risk situations. “We issued evacuation orders from embassies weeks ago and offered to leave the country before the first hostilities with Russia began.. “Unlike governments, we do not have a political agenda, which allows us to measure risk very well and issue warnings,” he explains.

Source: Informacion

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