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The warning, which replaces one issued in February, was issued due to what the State Department called “heightened tensions and security risks.”
The warning points out that a “rise in political tensions and violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank has resulted in injuries to and deaths of U.S. citizens.” Among them was American yeshiva student Ezra Schwartz, who was killed on November 19 by a Palestinian gunman in the West Bank.
The State Department warned U.S. citizens against travel to Gaza, and called on those in Gaza to leave immediately, pointing out that U.S. government employees are not allowed to travel officially or personally to Gaza.
The State Department also urged U.S. citizens to consider the rules that U.S. government employees must follow when planning their travel in Israel and the West Bank.
For example, with the exception of Jericho and Bethlehem, U.S. government employees are prohibited from personal travel to the West Bank; they are prohibited from using public and inter-city buses throughout Israel and the West Bank; and they must obtain advance approval to travel to certain areas including near the Gaza border, near the Lebanon border and in areas of the Golan.
The State Department warned Americans in Israel to be aware of their surroundings at all times, avoid any unattended items or packages, and report any unusual or suspicious activities or items to police or other security officials.
It further warned: “Since October 2015, attacks on individuals and groups have occurred with increased frequency in East and West Jerusalem, Hebron, and Bethlehem, as well as various other places in the West Bank and Israel, including Tel Aviv. There is no indication that U.S. citizens have been specifically targeted based on their nationality, although perceived religious affiliation may have been a factor in some violent attacks on U.S. citizens. More than 12 U.S. citizens have been among those killed and injured in multiple attacks in 2014 and 2015.”
The U.S. State Department frequently issues travel warnings for the West Bank and certain areas of Israel. A worldwide travel alert for U.S. citizens was issued last month in the wake of recent terror attacks, including in Paris and Mali.