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Travel Warning: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza

Originally released June 20, 2005, this information is current as of Monday, November 7, 2005. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid a certain country.

This travel warning is being issued to update information on travel restrictions for U.S. government personnel in the West Bank and to reiterate threats to American citizens and interests in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. It supersedes the Travel Warning issued April 7, 2005.

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to carefully weigh the necessity of their travel to Israel in light of the risks noted below. The Department also urges U.S. citizens to defer unnecessary travel to the West Bank and avoid all travel to Gaza.

Terrorist attacks within Israel have declined in both frequency and associated casualties. However, the potential for further violence remains high. Resentment against efforts to promote peace, and ongoing Israeli military operations in the Occupied Territories could incite further violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Israeli security services report that they are investigating between 40 and 60 planned terrorist attacks at any given time. The February 25 suicide bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub is a reminder of the precarious security environment, even when a cease-fire has been declared.

The anticipated evacuation of Israeli settlers from Gaza could lead to violence in Israel by settler groups. Settler organizations have already organized a series of large-scale demonstrations and are reportedly planning acts of civil disobedience and other protests that at best will be severely disruptive and at worst may result in physical confrontations leading to violence.

The U.S. Government has received information indicating that American interests within Israel could be the focus of terrorist attacks. For that reason, American citizens are cautioned that a greater danger may exist in the vicinity of restaurants, businesses, and other places associated with U.S. interests and/or located near U.S. official buildings, such as the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem.

Throughout Jerusalem, the State Department urges American citizens to remain vigilant while traveling, especially within the commercial and downtown areas of West Jerusalem. Israeli security services report that they continue to receive information of planned terrorist attacks around Jerusalem. In addition, American citizens should stay away from demonstrations and generally avoid crowded public places, such as restaurants and cafes, shopping and market areas and malls, pedestrian zones, public transportation of all kinds, including buses and trains and their respective stations/terminals, and the areas around them. Spontaneous or planned protests within the Old City are possible, especially after Friday prayers. Some of these protests have led to violent clashes.

American employees of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem are prohibited from using all public transportation. The Old City of Jerusalem is off-limits to them after dark all week and between the hours of 11:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. on Fridays. U.S. government employees are also forbidden from patronizing discos and nightclubs.

American citizens in Gaza should depart immediately, a recommendation the State Department has maintained since the deadly roadside bombing of a U.S. Embassy convoy in Gaza on October 15, 2003. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from all travel in Gaza. Overall conditions of lawlessness prevail, Israeli military operations continue, and areas of violent conflict shift rapidly and unpredictably. Militants have abducted Western citizens and held them for short periods, and the Hamas terrorist organization has threatened attacks against U.S. interests.

In September and October 2004 and February 2005, citizens of Western nations, including Americans, involved in pro-Palestinian volunteer efforts were assaulted and injured in the Occupied Territories by Israeli settlers and harassed by the Israeli Defense Forces. Those taking part in demonstrations, non-violent resistance, and “direct action”, are advised to cease such activity for their own safety.

For official operational needs only, U.S. Government personnel are permitted to travel to and stop in cities and towns in the West Bank, depending on prevailing security conditions. For limited, personal travel, U.S. government personnel and family members are permitted to transit the West Bank on primary roads to reach the Allenby/King Hussein bridge and the Dead Sea coast, north of Ein Gedi and Masada, in the south. For safety and security reasons all cities, towns and settlements in the West Bank, including Jericho and Bethlehem, remain strictly off-limits for personal travel by U.S. government personnel and family members. U.S. government personnel and family members are expressly prohibited from using Route 443 between Modi'in and Jerusalem for personal travel.

All travelers who enter or travel in Gaza or the West Bank should exercise particular care when approaching and traveling through checkpoints and should expect delays and difficulties. Travelers should also be aware they might not be allowed passage through checkpoints.

Any American Citizen who intends to travel to Israel, the West Bank or Gaza in spite of this and prior warnings should carefully review the Consular Information Sheet for Israel, The West Bank and Gaza. That reference describes other potential dangers and difficulties and offers detailed security recommendations. Palestinian-Americans face many additional obstacles and regulations that are described in that document.

Americans who remain in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are strongly encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv or the Consulate General in Jerusalem through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov. U.S. citizens who require emergency services may telephone the Consulate General in Jerusalem at (972) (2) 622-7250 or the Embassy in Tel Aviv at (972) (3) 519-7355.

However, periodically the Embassy and Consulate General may temporarily suspend public services to review their security posture. As a consequence of the current limitations on official travel to the West Bank, and the prohibition on travel by U.S. government employees to Gaza, the ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens in these areas is considerably reduced.

Current information on travel and security in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States, or, from overseas, 1-202-501-4444. 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 website at http://travel.state.gov. Up-to-date information on security conditions can also be accessed at http://usembassy-israel.org.il or http://jerusalem.usconsulate.gov.

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