Anti-terror unit tells Israelis to leave Sinai
The Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister's Office warned Israelis to exercise caution when traveling abroad during the Jewish holidays, due to the assessment that Hezbollah may try to attack Israeli citizens, and urged citizens in Sinai to leave immediately.
In issuing its report yesterday, which it does regularly before Rosh Hashanah and Passover every year, the bureau stated the bulletin "did not involve new warnings, but rather a current assessment."
It cautioned Israelis to be vigilant regarding anything unusual, and to refrain from traveling to Muslim countries subject to specific travel warnings. These countries include Jordan, Morocco and Egypt (including Sinai).
Particularly high-level warnings have been issued regarding Sinai. An estimated 40,000 Israelis are currently there, most of them Israeli Arabs on vacation before Ramadan begins on August 20.
Other countries subject to travel warnings include Colombia, especially in light of specific information about the potential for attacks on Israelis providing security assistance to the Colombian government. High-level threats also have been issued for the Kashmir region, Mindanao in the Philippines, and parts of southern Thailand.
The Counter-Terrorism Bureau also recommends deferring unessential travel to Kenya (especially coastal areas), Bangladesh, Nigeria and Tajikistan.
Despite the warnings, Israeli tour operators are organizing trips to Jordan, Morocco and Kenya, as well as other countries where the threat is deemed high. Arkia Airlines is offering a safari package to Kenya and Uganda. Organized groups and individual Israelis visit Morocco regularly.
Israelis abroad are advised to refuse offers from unknown or suspicious individuals, and to refuse unanticipated invitations to isolated locations. They should meet with foreigners only in the company of other trusted individuals, and not allow unknown or suspicious individuals to enter their hotel rooms. Those abroad for extended periods are advised to vary their routines and change hotels.
The warning about an attack by Hezbollah, supposedly as revenge for the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, comes despite the fact that Israel never has admitted to being behind the killing. Israeli businesspeople, particularly those with contacts in Arab or Muslim countries, are believed to be at greater risk.
Details regarding advisories, including information about travel warnings for specific countries, are available at the Counter-Terrorism Bureau's Web site, www.nsc.gov.il (in Hebrew).