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Israel, The West Bank and Gaza Travel Warning

Issued by US Department of State

Mar 17, 2003

This Travel Warning is being issued to alert U.S. citizens that the Department of State has ordered all family members and non-emergency personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem to depart the country. The decision to move to ordered departure status is a result of an overall assessment of the security situation in the region due to the threat of military action in Iraq. The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Private American citizens currently in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are strongly urged to depart immediately. This Travel Warning supersedes that issued on February 7, 2003.

On March 16, the Department of State ordered all family members and non-emergency personnel to depart the country as a result of a deteriorating security situation in the region. U.S. consular personnel remain available to provide emergency information and services to American citizens. Should conditions dictate, some consular services for non-American citizens could be restricted, for example, suspending all but emergency visa operations.

U.S. citizens who remain in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza despite this travel warning are encouraged to register at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv or the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem and enroll in the warden system (emergency alert network) in order to obtain updated information on travel and security. Please note that although commercial air service is currently available, there remains the possibility of commercial flight disruptions should there be military action in Iraq. In the event of military action in Iraq, there is a risk that Iraq or terrorist organizations may use chemical and/or biological materials which could affect the region. Americans in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza should exercise caution and take prudent measures to maintain their security. They are encouraged to become familiar with and follow emergency procedures described by the Israeli Home Front Command. These can be found in English at http://idf.il/homefront/english/ie-welcome.stmtt.

Other measures include being vigilantly aware of your surroundings, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, varying times and routes for all required travel, and ensuring travel documents are current. American citizens residing in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem should consider relocating to a safe location.

Ongoing violence has caused numerous civilian deaths and injuries, including to some American tourists, students and residents. The potential for further terrorist acts remains high. The situation in Israel, Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank remains extremely volatile with continuing terrorist attacks, confrontations and clashes.

U.S. Government personnel in Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza are under tight security controls, including prohibition of travel to the West Bank and Gaza. Occasionally, U.S. Government personnel are prohibited from traveling to sections of Jerusalem and parts of Israel, depending on prevailing security conditions.

American citizens in Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza should avoid locations such as restaurants and cafes, shopping areas and malls, pedestrian zones, public buses and bus stops or other crowded venues and the areas around them. Americans should also avoid large crowds and demonstrations. Roads designed for Israeli settlers, including in East Jerusalem, have been the site of frequent shooting attacks and roadside explosives, sometimes resulting in death or injury. U.S. Embassy and Consulate employees and their families have been prohibited from using public buses throughout Israel, the Jerusalem municipality, the West Bank and Gaza.

As a result of ongoing military activity in the West Bank and Gaza, sections of those areas have been declared closed military zones. The Government of Israel may deny entry at Ben Gurion Airport or at a land border to persons it believes might travel to "closed" areas in the West Bank or Gaza or to persons the Israeli authorities believe may sympathize with the Palestinian cause and are seeking to meet with Palestinian officials. Closed areas in the West Bank and Gaza have been subject to intense shelling and firing. In some instances, Americans have been wounded and their property damaged. Major cities in the West Bank are often placed under Israeli military curfew. All persons in areas under curfew should remain indoors or risk arrest or injury. Because of the closures and fighting, provision of medical and humanitarian care has been severely delayed in those areas. In addition, dual Palestinian-American citizens may encounter difficulties entering and/or departing Israel, the West Bank and Gaza during times of Israeli closures. For example, from January to March 2003, the Israeli government banned the departure via the Allenby Bridge, Rafah, Erez and Taba border crossings of all Palestinian ID holders under the age of 35. The ban applied to all travelers regardless of gender or any other foreign citizenship, including American citizenship. Americans who hold Palestinian ID numbers should consult the Embassy or Consulate for the most recent information before attempting to cross relevant borders. These restrictions can change frequently and without any advance notice.

During times when the closures and curfews are lifted, in order to depart Israel via Ben Gurion Airport, Palestinian-Americans must apply for an Israeli transit permit. Except in humanitarian or special interest cases, Israeli authorities are unlikely to issue this permit. In this event, and notwithstanding the new restrictions mentioned above, travelers must depart via land crossings and may experience lengthy delays. All travelers who enter or travel in Gaza or the West Bank should expect delays and difficulties at checkpoints located throughout those areas, and should exercise particular care when approaching and traveling through checkpoints. Travelers should also be aware they might not be allowed passage through the checkpoints.

From time to time, the Embassy and Consulate General may temporarily suspend public services to review their security posture. Travel restrictions on official travel into the West Bank and Gaza impair the Embassy's and Consulate General's ability to render emergency services to American citizens in the West Bank and Gaza. U.S. citizens who require emergency services may telephone the Consulate General in Jerusalem at (972) (2) 622-7230 or the Embassy in Tel Aviv at (972) (3) 519-7355.

For further information on travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, please consult the Department of State's latest Consular Information Sheet for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, the Worldwide Caution and Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement. The most up-to-date information on security conditions can also be accessed at www.usembassy-israel.org.il or www.uscongen-jerusalem.org.

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