This Travel Warning is being issued to update information on the general security environment in Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and to reiterate threats to American citizens and U.S. interests in those locations. The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to remain mindful of security factors when considering travel to Israel and Jerusalem at this time. In addition, the Department of State urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to the West Bank and to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip. This warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued August 29, 2006.
Overall, conditions of lawlessness -- including running gun battles and kidnappings -- prevail in the Gaza Strip; daily incidents of intra-Palestinian violence also occur in the West Bank. Violent demonstrations and armed conflicts between supporters of Palestinian factions have increased in both areas. Security forces and militiamen have engaged in running gun battles in the streets of Gaza, and individual members of factions and the security forces have been targeted for assassination, some successfully. Areas of violent conflict shift rapidly and unpredictably. Foreigners have been subject to threats and kidnappings.
American citizens in the Gaza Strip should depart immediately, a recommendation that the State Department has maintained and renewed since the deadly roadside bombing of a U.S. Embassy convoy in Gaza on October 15, 2003. This recommendation applies to all Americans, including journalists and aid workers. Militants have continued to abduct Western citizens, and terrorist organizations have threatened attacks against U.S. interests.
Militant groups in Gaza persist in launching rocket attacks against nearby Israeli towns despite a nominal ceasefire there. The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) has been authorized to respond to such attacks with counterstrikes against launch areas while launch crews are present. It also continues to carry out security operations in the West Bank, including infrequent, airborne targeted attacks and ground incursions, which have led to the deaths and injuries to bystanders. Rocket fire from Lebanon has ceased since the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 in August 2006.
In recent months, some Americans and Europeans involved in demonstrations and other such activities in the West Bank have become involved in confrontations with Israeli settlers and the IDF. The State Department recommends that Americans, for their own safety, avoid demonstrations.
For safety and security reasons, U.S. Government American personnel and dependents are prohibited from traveling to any cities, towns or settlements in the West Bank, except for mission-essential business or other approved purposes. For limited, personal travel, U.S. government personnel and family members are permitted to travel through the West Bank, using only Routes 1 and 90, to reach the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge or the Dead Sea coast near Ein Gedi and Masada. Each such transit requires prior notification to the Consulate General's security office and must occur during daylight hours. U.S. Government personnel and family members are permitted both official and personal travel on Route 443 between Modi'in and Jerusalem without prior notification, during daylight hours only. Travel to the Gaza Strip by U.S. Government personnel is prohibited. The Department of State strongly recommends that private American citizens not travel to the Gaza Strip. Those in Gaza should depart immediately.
All travelers who enter or travel in the West Bank should exercise particular care when approaching and traveling through Israeli checkpoints and should expect delays and difficulties. Travelers should also be aware they might not be allowed passage through checkpoints.
Israeli authorities are concerned about the continuing threat of suicide bombings. The January 2006 and April 2006, suicide bombings in Tel Aviv, the December 2005 suicide bombing in Netanya and a similar incident in Hadera in October 2005 are reminders of the precarious security environment. Despite the success of Israeli security forces in preventing suicide attacks since April 2006, the threat of such attacks is ongoing. The U.S. Government has received information indicating that American interests 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.
American citizens are urged to exercise a high degree of caution and common sense when patronizing restaurants, cafes, malls, places of worship, and theaters, especially during peak hours. Large crowds and public gatherings should be avoided to the extent possible, and personnel should be alert to street vendors who sometimes aggressively harass tourists. American citizens should take into consideration that discos and nightclubs, as well as public buses, trains and their respective terminals are "off-limits" to U.S. Government personnel.
Violence between organized criminal elements sometimes occurs in areas frequented by foreigners and has occasionally resulted in death or injuries to bystanders. While American citizens have not been the targets of such violence, they should be aware of their surroundings and follow common sense security precautions.
The State Department urges American citizens to remain vigilant while traveling throughout Jerusalem, especially within the commercial and downtown areas of West Jerusalem and the city center. Israeli security services report that they continue to receive information of planned terrorist attacks in and around Jerusalem. The last terrorist bombing in Jerusalem was on September 22, 2004. Spontaneous or planned protests within the Old City are possible, especially after Friday prayers. Some of these protests have led to violent clashes. The Old City of Jerusalem is off-limits to U.S. Government personnel and their family members after dark during the entire week and between the hours of 11 am and 2 pm on Fridays.
Americans in Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are strongly encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv or the Consular Section of U.S. 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.
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 the Gaza Strip, the ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens in these areas is extremely limited.