The U.S. State Department revised its travel advisory to Israel on Wednesday, urging Americans to “reconsider travel” to the country amid its intensifying war with Hamas in Gaza.
Violence broke out on Saturday when Hamas militants in Gaza — a Palestinian territory where Hamas is based — launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing hundreds of its soldiers and civilians and holding more than 150 of them hostage in Gaza.
The surprise attack ignited a war that put an abrupt stop to several flights from the U.S. to Israel on Saturday. As violence continues to unfold between Israel and Hamas, the U.S. State Department has bumped its travel advisory to Israel up to a “Level-3 Reconsider Travel.”
“Terrorist groups, lone-actor terrorists and other violent extremists continue plotting possible attacks in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza,” the advisory states. “Terrorists and violent extremists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities.”
“Violence can occur in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza without warning. There has been a marked increase in demonstrations throughout Israel, some with little or no warning.”
Even before the war erupted, the Department had issued an advisory warning Americans against traveling to Gaza, and urged them to be cautious when traveling to Israel due to the threat of terrorism.
Now, the revised advisory lists Israel and the West Bank as places to reconsider traveling to due to “terrorism and civil unrest.” It also warns not to visit Gaza for the same reasons, along with “armed conflict.”
Israeli militants have continued to fight against Hamas using airstrikes since Saturday, which appears to be only the start of their offensive. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to bring on a larger retaliation that would “reverberate … for generations.”
Several political leaders in the U.S. have spoken out about the war, including President Joe Biden, who pledged on Tuesday to continue supporting Israel in its defense. Meanwhile, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai — without taking sides — called for an “immediate ceasefire” on Tuesday for the sake of children caught in the middle of the violence, echoing a similar statement released by UNICEF that same day.
The war, which the Associated Press reports has claimed the lives of at least 2,300 people on both sides, wasn’t unprovoked, but rather ignited by the Israeli government’s decadeslong apartheid against Palastinians. Biden appeared to allude to this in his remarks on Tuesday as he condemned Hamas and emphasized that the group is not reflective of the entire Palestinian cause.
“The brutality of Hamas… brings to mind the worst rampages of ISIS,” Biden said. “Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination … Hamas offers nothing but terror and bloodshed, with no regard to who pays the price.”