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Cablegate: Travel Warning - Israel, the West Bank and Gaza

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 STATE 103379

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC PTER AMGT ASEC IS GZ WE
SUBJECT: TRAVEL WARNING - ISRAEL, THE WEST BANK AND GAZA

1. This Travel Warning updates information on the
general security environment in Israel, the West Bank,
and the Gaza Strip, and reminds American citizens of
threats to themselves and to U.S. interests in those
locations. The Department of State urges U.S. citizens
to remain mindful of security factors when planning
travel to Israel. 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 March 19, 2008.

--------------
The Gaza Strip
--------------

2. Conflict and violence can occur and spread rapidly
and
unpredictably in the Gaza Strip. The State Department
strongly recommends that American citizens refrain from
all travel to the Gaza strip and that those already in
Gaza depart immediately. This recommendation has been
in effect since the deadly roadside bombing of a U.S.
Embassy convoy in Gaza in October 2003. It applies to
all Americans, including journalists and aid workers.
No official travel is permitted inside the Gaza Strip at
this time.

3. Hamas, a State Department-designated foreign
terrorist organization, violently assumed control over
Gaza in June 2007, making worse the already dangerous
security situation there. Although a ceasefire between
Israel and Hamas went into effect June 19, 2008, the
Gaza Strip continues to be a potential center of
violence between Israeli security forces and Palestinian
terrorist groups. Militants there have abducted Western
citizens, and terrorist organizations have threatened
attacks against U.S. interests. The American
International School in northern Gaza has been the
target of repeated attacks. Despite the ceasefire,
Hamas and Islamic Jihad (another designated foreign
terrorist organization) still occasionally launch rocket
attacks against Israeli towns as far north as Ashkelon.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) retains the option of
responding to these attacks with military force. In
addition, Hamas uses violence against other Palestinian
factions in Gaza, and innocent civilians are at times
the victims.

4. The security environment is very fluid in the
vicinity of the Gaza Strip, and the ceasefire could
collapse with little or no advance warning. Rocket and
mortar launches into Israel are unpredictable, resulting
in a potentially unsafe situation. Gunfire from Gaza
into Israel is a danger. Palestinian snipers have
killed individuals within rifle range of the Gaza
border. As a result, travel in the surrounding area is
strongly discouraged. Due to the continued high level
of tensions and violence in and near the Gaza Strip, all
U.S. Embassy and Consulate General employees are
required to provide 24 hours advance notice of any
official travel to the city of Sderot, crossing points
into Gaza, and to any other areas bordering Gaza.
American citizens should be aware that as a consequence
of 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 there
is extremely limited.

-------------
The West Bank
-------------

5. The security environment in the West Bank remains

STATE 00103379 002 OF 004


volatile. Violent demonstrations, kidnappings and
shootings are unpredictable and can occur without
warning. The Department of State urges Americans to
defer travel to the West Bank at this time.

6. The IDF continues to carry out security operations
in the West Bank, including nighttime raids to arrest
terrorist suspects that sometimes result in gun battles.
Israeli security operations can occur at any time,
including frequent raids to arrest terrorist suspects
that result in shootings, demonstrations and often
violent conflict. This heightens the risk of Americans
being caught in the middle of potentially dangerous
situations. 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.

7. All those who pass through the West Bank should
exercise particular care when approaching and transiting
Israeli military checkpoints. Travelers should be aware
that they might encounter delays and difficulties, and
might even be denied passage through a checkpoint.

8. American citizens should be aware that, as a
consequence of the current limitations on official
travel to the West Bank, the ability of consular staff
to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens there is
limited.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Travel Restrictions for U.S. Government Personnel
--------------------------------------------- ----

9. All American U.S. Government personnel and their
dependents are prohibited from traveling to any cities,
towns or settlements in the West Bank, except when they
are on mission-essential business or are traveling for
other mission-approved purposes. For limited, personal
travel, U.S. government personnel and family members are
permitted to travel through the West Bank only by using
Routes 1 and 90 to reach the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge
or the Dead Sea coast near Ein Gedi and Masada. They
are also permitted to travel north on Route 90 from the
Allenby/King Hussein Bridge to the Sea of Galilee. Use
of these routes is approved for transit only, with stops
permitted only at Qumran National Park off Route 90 by
the
Dead Sea. 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.

---------------------------
General Safety and Security
---------------------------

10. Israeli authorities remain concerned about the
continuing threat of terrorist attacks. In September
2008, a vehicle plowed into a group of Israeli soldiers
on a traffic island near a Jerusalem square, injuring
more than a dozen. Two fatal bulldozer attacks on
civilians in July 2008 and a March 2008 shooting, all in
Jerusalem, and a February 2008 bombing in Dimona are
reminders of the precarious security environment. The
threat of such attacks is on-going. 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. Rocket
fire from Lebanon into Israel, except for one recent

STATE 00103379 003 OF 004


incident, has ceased since the end of military
hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah forces in
southern Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Although Israel
denied any involvement, the killing of a Hizbollah
leader in Syria on February 12, 2008, raises the
possibility of Hizbollah attacks against Israel.

11. American citizens are urged to exercise a high
degree of caution and common sense when patronizing
restaurants, nightclubs, cafes, malls, places of
worship, and theaters -- especially during peak hours.
Large crowds and public gatherings have been targeted by
terrorists in the past and should be avoided to the
extent practicable. American citizens should take into
consideration that public buses, trains, and their
respective terminals are "off-limits" to U.S. Government
personnel.

12. 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.
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.

-----------------------
Entry/Exit Difficulties
-----------------------

13. The Government of Israel considers American
citizens who also hold Israeli citizenship or have a
claim to such dual nationality to be Israeli citizens
for immigration and other legal purposes. For example,
an American citizen child of an Israeli parent will be
considered an Israeli citizen by Israeli immigration
officials and
Israeli law will apply to the child's travel to, and
departure from, Israel.

14. American citizens whom Israeli authorities
determine to be of Arab origin are likely to face
additional, often time-consuming, and probing
questioning by immigration and border authorities, or
may even be denied entry into Israel. If they are
determined by Israeli authorities to have a claim to
residency status in the West Bank or Gaza, or to have a
claim to a Palestinian identification number, such
American citizens may be required by the Government of
Israel to use a Palestinian Authority travel document to
transit Israel to enter the West Bank or Gaza. Such a
determination could be made for American citizens if
they or their immediate family members were born in the
West Bank or Gaza, currently reside there, or lived
there for any appreciable amount of time.

15. American citizens who hold a Palestinian Authority
ID, as well as persons judged by the Israeli authorities
to have claim to a Palestinian Authority ID, will be
considered subject to Israeli law and to regulations
that Israel applies to residents of the West Bank and
Gaza, regardless of the fact that they hold U.S.
citizenship. A Palestinian ID number might be active or
inactive. If active, the Government of Israel may stamp
the Palestinian Identification Number in the U.S.
passport, and the American citizen may be required to
obtain Palestinian Authority travel documents prior to
departing Israel. In addition, American citizens having
or eligible for a
Palestinian Authority ID who entered Israel via Ben

STATE 00103379 004 OF 004


Gurion Airport might be required to depart via the
Allenby Bridge to Jordan. Upon arrival, such persons
may wish to consider asking Israeli immigration
authorities from where they will be required to depart.
Additionally, American citizens who have (or who are
eligible to receive) a Palestinian Authority
Identification Number, may be refused entry to Israel
via Ben Gurion Airport and told that they must enter
Israel from Jordan via the Allenby Bridge.

16. The United States Government seeks equal treatment
for all American citizens regardless of national origin
or ethnicity. American citizens who encounter
difficulties are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy
in Tel Aviv or the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem
at the telephone numbers below.

17. Americans in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip are strongly encouraged to register with the
Consular Sections of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv or the
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) 628-7137, after hours:
(972) (2) 622-7250 or the Embassy in Tel Aviv at (972)
(3) 519-7575, after hours: (972) (3) 519-7551.

18. Current information on travel and security in
Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip may be obtained
from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747
within the United States and Canada, or, from overseas,
1-202-501-4444. For additional and more in-depth
information about specific aspects of travel to these
areas, U.S. citizens should consult: the Country
Specific Information for
Israel, the West Bank and Gaza; and the Worldwide
Caution. These along with other Travel Warnings, Travel
Alerts and Country Specific Information sheets are
available on the Department's Internet website at
http://travel.state.gov. Up-to-date information on
security conditions can also be accessed at
http://usembassy-israel.org.il or
http://jerusalem.usconsulate.gov.

19. Minimize considered.
RICE

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