State Department extends travel warning to Jerusalem

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The U.S. State Department has modified its travel warning for Israel, extending it from the conflict areas of the West Bank and Gaza to Jerusalem, citing violence in certain areas “not seen in a decade.”

In addition to being cautioned against travel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Americans are now being warned about recent violence in Jerusalem, and “the numerous political, cultural, and religious tensions that permeate the city," according to Wednesday's modified warning.

“We have no indication that U.S. citizens have been specifically targeted based on their nationality, however U.S. citizens have been directly affected,” it added, noting that many of the recent flare ups have occurred following access restrictions to Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, the site of recent protests between Jewish and Muslim devotees.

The warning also cited attacks on “individuals and groups” in East and West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Bethlehem, and cited recent violence in which Americans have been killed or injured.

According to news reports those include, Naftali Fraenkel, one of three teens kidnapped and killed by Palestinian terrorists in June; Chaya Zissel Braun, a 3-month-old run over and killed when a Palestinian driver careened into a crowd of pedestrians in East Jerusalem in October; and three U.S.-born rabbis killed in a November attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

The State Department is instructing Americans to be aware of trouble spots and  “not to enter any neighborhoods while restricted by the (Israel National Police) and to avoid any locations with active clashes.”

Furthermore, “U.S. citizens are advised to avoid public parks in Jerusalem after dark, due to numerous reports of criminal activity associated with these parks.”

Stronger warnings remain for travel in Northern Israel and the Golan Heights on the border with Syria, and the West Bank. Americans are “strongly urged” not to travel to Gaza, which is under the government control of Hamas. “The ability of U.S. government personnel to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens, including assistance departing Gaza, is extremely limited,” the department warns. “U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Gaza cannot normally rely on the U.S. government to assist them in departing Gaza.”