U.S. State Dept. warns against travel in Israel

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. State Department warned Americans to "exercise a high degree of caution" while traveling in highly trafficked areas in Israel.

It also said that Americans should avoid West Bank demonstrations because of dangers posed by Israeli troops dispersing protesters, and should not attempt to enter the Gaza Strip by sea.

"Israeli authorities remain concerned about the continuing threat of terrorist attacks," said the travel warning published Tuesday. "U.S. citizens are cautioned that a greater danger may exist around 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. U.S. citizens are also urged to exercise a high degree of caution and to use common sense when patronizing restaurants, nightclubs, cafes, malls, places of worship, and theaters, especially during peak hours."

The warning banned U.S. government employees from using buses.

It also urged vigilance for Americans visiting Jerusalem and banned government employees from parts of the city.

"U.S. government employees are authorized to visit the Old City during daylight hours only except between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Fridays," the warning said.

It imposed the same restriction on the Haas Promenade in the Armon HaNatziv neighborhood and banned government employee visits to the Old City Wall ramparts between the Herod and Lion gates.

The warning urged U.S. citizens not to travel to the Gaza Strip at all, and noted the dangers of traveling to the West Bank because of clashes between protesters and Israeli troops.

"Some U.S. citizens involved in demonstrations in the West Bank have sustained serious injuries in confrontations with Israeli settlers and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)," said the statement. "The State Department recommends that U.S. citizens, for their own safety, avoid demonstrations."

Emily Henochowicz, a Jewish American art student at Jerusalem’s Bezalel college, lost her eye recently at such a protest when she was hit by a tear gas canister. Witnesses say she stood apart from rioters. Her family is suing Israel.

The Gaza Strip warning specified entry by sea, and referred to Israel’s recent raid on an aid flotilla that resulted in nine deaths, including a dual Turkish-American citizen.

"Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens," it said.

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