WASHINGTON — Violence in the Jerusalem area has reached levels “not seen in those areas in a decade,” the US State Department said Wednesday, warning citizens about the dangers of travel to the capital and other areas in the region.
In the newest reissue of a standing travel warning regarding Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, the State Department admonished citizens to “be aware of the continuing risks of travel to these areas.”
The warning, issued Wednesday, replaced a travel warning issued in early September, and placed much more emphasis on dangers to US citizens from terror attacks in well-traveled areas.
Describing diminished security in Israel’s cities, the warning notes that “a rise in political tensions and violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank has resulted in injuries to and deaths of US citizens.”
The notice warned that “the July-August 2014 Gaza conflict and subsequent political and religious tension associated with access to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem led to increased levels of violence, particularly in Jerusalem and West Bank environs, not seen in those areas in a decade.”
It cited “attacks on individuals and groups” in “East and West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Bethlehem, as well as various places in the West Bank.”
US citizens accounted for a high number of victims in a string of terror attacks that rocked the Jerusalem area in the fall, including a three-month-old baby run over by an East Jerusalem driver, and three US-born rabbis killed in an attack on a synagogue.
US-born Rabbi Yehuda Glick, an activist who campaigns for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount, also survived an assassination attempt.
Tariq Abu Khdeir, a US citizen in Israel for the funeral of his cousin murdered by Jewish extremists, was beaten by Israeli border police in July in a high-profile case.
The State Department said six US citizens were killed in Israel and the West Bank over 2014 and several more injured, but noted that “we have no indication that US citizens have been specifically targeted based on their nationality.”
The warning was tempered by a statement noting that thousands of US citizens regularly visit the region safely and Israeli and Palestinian police were making “considerable efforts to police major tourist attractions and ensure security in areas where foreigners frequently travel.”
The current iteration of the travel warning strikes earlier language that prohibited Embassy and Consulate General personnel from traveling south of Ashdod and required special approval for travel to and south of Beersheva.
The new language regarding the south notes instead that US government personnel require special security arrangements if traveling inside Israel within seven kilometers of the Gaza demarcation line.
Acknowledging the destabilizing potential of the Syrian Civil War on Israel’s northern border, the warning also notes that US personnel have restricted travel along the Lebanese border and in the eastern Golan Heights.