U.S. Bans Troops From Visiting Israel, Middle East

American soldiers were forbidden from traveling to Israel and other Middle Eastern countries in September in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, The Times of Israel reports

U.S. Army Paratroopers deploy from Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina in 2020
U.S. Army Paratroopers deploy from Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina in 2020Credit: CAPT. ROBYN HAAKE / US ARMY / AF

American soldiers were barred from traveling to Israel and the wider Middle East last September under a new policy meant to stem the spread of COVID-19, says the U.S. Army.

According to the Times of Israel, the United States Central Command issued its new regulation on September 8, 2021, a week after Israel was transferred to the command's official area of responsibility. It prohibited service members from “unofficial travel” to a list of countries including, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Lebanon. There has been no update to the policy since it was implemented, the Times notes.

A prior version of the regulation only banned travel to Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria or Yemen, the Times reported, noting that while soldiers retain the option to appeal to senior commanders for an exemption from the new restrictions, such approval is unlikely.

“The changes… to Central Command Regulation (CCR) 55-2, were implemented in direct response to heightened COVID-19 restrictions throughout our area of responsibility," U.S. Central Command Spokesperson LTC Karen Roxberry told the Times.

“Any correlation between the Defense Department’s announcement of Israel’s realignment to U.S. Central Command’s responsibility in September 2021 is purely coincidental,” she added.

The Times noted that the countries in other commands' areas of responsibility had higher COVID case rates, and that these commands were not barring travel to their constituent countries.

“We haven’t heard about this,” a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said when shown the Times report, telling Haaretz that the U.S. had not notified Israel of this new policy.

The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Unit did not have an immediate reply to whether they had been informed of the change, but said that they would look into the matter.

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