Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Travel Warning
Issued by US Department of State
Apr 29, 2004
This Travel Warning is being updated in light of the killings of HAMAS leaders in Gaza. In the aftermath of the killings of two HAMAS leaders by Israel in less than a month, statements have been made by some HAMAS elements and other terrorist groups threatening revenge against U.S. interests, which could include kidnappings. The Department of State continues to urge all U.S. citizens to depart Gaza immediately, and to warn U.S. citizens to defer travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza due to current safety and security concerns. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued March 23, 2004.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to depart Gaza immediately and to defer travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza due to current safety and security concerns. Statements have been made by HAMAS elements and other terrorist groups threatening revenge against U.S. interests following the killing of HAMAS leaders in Gaza, which could include kidnappings, although we have no information that these threats will be carried out at this time. HAMAS has also vowed revenge against Israel. O ngoing violence over the last three years has caused numerous civilian deaths and injuries, including to some American tourists, students and residents, as well as to U.S. Mission personnel. 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. The Department of State recommended all U.S. citizens depart Gaza following the lethal terrorist attack on U.S. Mission personnel in Gaza on October 15, 2003. In addition, as the Israeli Defense Force continues to conduct extensive military operations, especially in Gaza, the possibility that innocent bystanders might become victims remains high.
American citizens who remain in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza despite this and earlier warnings are urged to continue to review their personal security situations and to take those actions they deem appropriate to ensure their well-being. Private Americans 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 and Jerusalem should consider relocating to a safe location.
American citizens should avoid, to the extent possible, public places such as restaurants and cafes, shopping and market areas and malls, pedestrian zones, public buses and bus stops, and other crowded venues and the areas around them. Americans should also avoid demonstrations. Roads designed for Israeli settlers, including in East Jerusalem, have been the sites 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 non-official travel to the West Bank and Gaza. Official travel to the West Bank and Gaza is conducted only for specific mission needs, and under the auspices of U.S. Government security personnel. 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. Travel restrictions may be imposed with little or no warning and travelers run the risk of finding themselves stranded as a result. 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, or be barred from, entering and/or departing Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, especially during times of Israeli closures. 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 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 Israeli military 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. Due to current limitations on official travel by U.S. Government employees to the West Bank and Gaza made necessary by the unrest and uncertain conditions, the ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens in need in these areas is considerably reduced at present. 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.
Current information on travel and security in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or, from overseas,
1-317-472-2328. U.S. citizens should consult the Consular Information Sheet for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, the Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement and the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement at the Department's Internet site at http://travel.state.gov. U p-to-date information on security conditions can also be accessed at http://www.usembassy-israel.org.il or http://usembassy-israel.org.il/publish/consular.htm.