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Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Travel Warning

Issued by U.S. Department of State

Apr 17, 2003

This Travel Warning is being updated to inform American citizens that the Department of State has lifted the ordered departure of non-emergency employees and family members and authorized them to return to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, effective April 17. This Travel Warning also alerts U.S. citizens to ongoing safety and security concerns in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. It supersedes the Travel Warning issued on March 16, 2003.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. 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. Although the Department of State has authorized the return of family members and non-emergency personnel to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem following an overall assessment of the security situation in the region, the situation in Israel, Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank remains extremely volatile with continuing terrorist attacks, confrontations and clashes.

American citizens are urged to continue to review their personal security situations and to take those actions they deem appropriate to ensure their well-being, including consideration of departure from these areas. Private Americans who are in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza despite this warning are encouraged to follow the precautions detailed below and remain in close communication with the American Embassy in Tel Aviv and the American Consulate General in Jerusalem for more detailed information. American citizens residing in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem should consider relocating to a safe location.

American citizens in Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza should avoid locations, to the extent possible, 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.

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.

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. Americans have been killed, seriously injured, detained, and deported as a result of encounters with Israeli Defense Forces operations in Gaza and the West Bank. Due to 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 http://www.usembassy-israel.org.il or http://www.uscongen-jerusalem.org.

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