State Department Cracks Down on Israel Travel Amid Violence

Employees restricted from Old City, West Bank

West Bank violence
Palestinian protesters run from tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during clashes with Israeli troops near Ramallah, West Bank, Friday, Oct. 23 / AP
October 26, 2015

The Department of State’s diplomatic security section is tightening restrictions on travel for its employees throughout Israel amid a spike in Palestinian violence that has killed at least eight Israelis, according to a recent internal report distributed to U.S. employees residing in the Jewish state.

The State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council is prohibiting Americans from traveling to the West Bank and Jerusalem’s Old City, as well as other areas, after dark due to the ongoing violence, according to the report.

The report also cites "analysts" claiming that so-called Israeli settlements are to blame for the spike in violence, an assertion made by the State Department multiple times but called inaccurate by experts in the region.

The council’s warning highlights the instability of the current situation and threat to Americans living in the region, who could become caught up in the violence.

"Such violence erupts periodically, with some analysts citing a correlation with conflict over Israeli settlements in Palestinian neighborhoods, Israeli visits to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount (HAS/TM) compound, restrictions on HAS/TM for Palestinians, reports of Palestinians killed as a result of Israeli security force action, settler violence against Palestinians, and other issues," the report states.

The report goes on to warn about the possibility of Palestinian rocket attacks, though it notes that the terror group Hamas has been weakened as a result of Israeli security operations in the Gaza Strip.

"Currently, an outbreak of rocket-fire from the Gaza Strip appears unlikely, although occasionally rockets have been fired from Gaza towards and into Israel," the report notes. "These incidents have resulted in rockets falling short within Gaza, impacting in undeveloped areas of southern Israel and interceptions by Israel’s missile defense system near developed areas of Israel."

However, this could change in the coming weeks.

"In response to the concern of small arms, mortar, and rocket fire originating from within Gaza towards and into Israel, U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv restricts travel within 7 miles of the Gaza Strip to official travel with special security protocols in effect," the report states.

Americans also are instructed to avoid public transportation, a target for Palestinian terrorists, as well as the Jerusalem light rail. Visits to Jerusalem’s Old City also have been restricted, with U.S. personnel being required to check in with the consulate upon entering and exiting the area.

"Public buses, bus stations, and bus stops have traditionally been a targeting priority in Israel," according to the report. "OSAC constituents are advised to avoid these locations as well. Both the U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv and U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem have standing security policies prohibiting U.S. government personnel from using the public buses and their associated stops and terminals for this very reason."

Travel to Jerusalem’s Old City after 6:00 P.M. has been completely restricted.

"U.S. government employees and their dependents are prohibited from personal travel to Bethlehem, and personal travel to Jericho requires advance approval by the U.S. Consulate," the report states. "U.S. government employees are only permitted to travel to the West Bank for official, mission-critical business."

OSAC also notes that lone wolf attacks by Palestinian terrorists remain the most prevalent threat.

"Due to Israel’s robust security apparatus, complex, coordinated attacks are less likely to be successful in Jerusalem and Israel. Low-level ‘lone wolf’ attacks perpetrated by solitary assailants such as stabbings and vehicular attacks are likely to continue as tensions remain high," the report states. "Stabbings have become a common tactic in recent weeks. Hamas-affiliated sympathizers reportedly recently distributed an online instructional video on how to conduct stabbing attacks more efficiently."

"Copycat incidents may also perpetuate the violence," it notes.

OSAC also suggests that Israeli security measures aimed at stopping the violence may stoke tensions among the Palestinians.

"As the situation evolves, constituents should monitor for an escalation of violence to include Gaza where on October 9 Israeli forces fired across the border during a protest in Gaza, killing seven Palestinians, and there have been several violent protests along the border and Israel Defense Security Forces incursions," the report states.

Published under: Israel