Following the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza and the escalating tensions in the region, the US State Department has issued a “worldwide” travel advisory, warning Americans to exercise increased caution to avoid becoming victims of possible terror attacks.
The alert came after widespread protests have broken out across the Middle East after hundreds are believed to have died in an explosion at the al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza.
Palestinian officials have blamed an Israeli airstrike for the blast, while the Israeli military said the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group is responsible – blaming an alleged faulty launch of a rocket intended to hit Israel. The PIJ has also denied responsibility.
US officials, including President Joe Biden, have sided with the IDF, publicly stating that “Israel Probably Did Not Bomb Gaza Strip Hospital”.
The explosion caused widespread anger across the Middle East, including in Lebanon where protestors set the US embassy in Beirut on fire.
The US initially issued travel advice warning Americans not to travel to Lebanon, but the advisory has since been updated to caution US citizens travelling anywhere in the world.
The move came one day after Mr Biden returned from a visit to Tel Aviv to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pledging the US’s support for Israel.
So is it safe for Americans to travel right now?
The latest government advisory warns all Americans to exercise caution when travelling anywhere in the world – and specifically not to travel to Gaza, the West Bank, Israel and Lebanon.
The “worldwide” travel advisory, issued by the State Department on 20 October, warned Americans to exercise caution when travelling due to the possibility of terror attacks.
“Due to increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against US citizens and interests, the Department of State advises US citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” the agency warned.
US citizens should “stay alert in locations frequented by tourists”.
The State Department has also urged Americans not to travel to Gaza due to the risk of terrorism, civil unrest, and armed conflict. US citizens have also been urged to reconsider travelling to the West Bank and Israel.
“Terrorist groups, lone-actor terrorists and other violent extremists continue plotting possible attacks in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. Terrorists and violent extremists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities,” the department warned.
“Violence can occur in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza without warning,” the advisory continued.
The State Department also noted that “there has been a marked increase in demonstrations throughout Israel, some with little or no warning.”
A “do not travel” advisory was also issued for Lebanon following the outbreak of violent protests outside the US embassy in Beirut.
The advisory warned Americans to “avoid demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings“ due to “the unpredictable security situation related to rocket, missile, and artillery exchanges between Israel and Hizballah or other armed militant factions”.
Non-emergency US government workers and their families have been authorised to leave the four regions.
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