WASHINGTON – The State Department, citing a "deteriorating security situation," warned Americans on Tuesday to defer travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and said dependents of American diplomats in Jerusalem were being encouraged to go home.
"The potential for further terrorist acts remains high," the travel warning said. "The situation in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza remains extremely volatile with continuing terrorist attacks, confrontations and clashes."
Similar warnings to Americans to stay away from Israel were issued in December and January. The statement Tuesday was coupled with an announcement that dependents of U.S. diplomats and other American workers at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem were authorized to go home at government expense.
Also, Americans living in Jerusalem, the West Bank and in Gaza were advised to consider relocating.
The departure of dependents, which is not mandatory, was based on the general situation and not on any specific threats against Americans, said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Israel's economy already is reeling under the damage caused by Palestinian attacks, the expense of a military buildup and a sharp decline in tourists. Tuesday's statement is bound to add to Americans' anxieties about visiting Israel.
The United States, declining to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv. The authorized departure of dependents, as it is called, does not apply to the embassy, the officials said.
Jerusalem has been a frequent target of Palestinian suicide bombers. Tel Aviv also has suffered bloody attacks, but with less frequency.
There was no immediate word how many American dependents would leave.