The State Department has strongly warned U.S. citizens against travel to the Gaza Strip, and urged those in the coastal enclave to depart immediately.
A travel warning update issued on Thursday also advised U.S. nationals to be wary of the continuing risks of travel to certain regions of Israel and the West Bank, where the security environment remains complex due to heightened tensions.
The Department says travel by any means, including by sea, to Gaza, which is under the control of "terrorist organization" Hamas, is risky. Security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its sea coast, is dangerous and volatile.
Travelers who enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing must also exit through the same crossing, and those entering the region may not be able to depart at a time of their choosing. Since U.S. citizen employees of the U.S. government are not allowed to enter Gaza or have contact with Hamas, the ability of Consular staff to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens is extremely limited.
U.S. government employees have been cautioned that with the exception of Jericho and Bethlehem, their personal travel to the West Bank is prohibited.
Travelers to Israeli areas in the vicinity of the Gaza are advised to be aware of the risks presented by small arms fire, anti-tank weapons, rockets, and mortars launched from inside Gaza toward Israeli cities and towns.
Travelers are advised to exercise caution at religious sites in Jerusalem on holy days, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, says the Travel Warning issued in the context of the approaching Christmas.
Some U.S. citizens holding Israeli nationality, possessing a Palestinian identity card, or of Arab or Muslim origin have experienced significant difficulties in entering or exiting Israel or the West Bank. Such U.S. citizens planning to travel to Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza have been advised to consult the detailed information concerning entry and exit difficulties in the Country Specific Information available on the Department of State's Consular Affairs website.
by RTT Staff Writer
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