WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) — The State Department advised U.S. citizens to avoid Gaza and limit travel in the West Bank after a Palestinian rocket attack led to Israeli bombings in Gaza.
In a travel warning issued Tuesday it urged citizens in Gaza “to depart as soon as possible when border crossings are open,” noting that although a cease-fire between Gaza and Israel is in place, “sporadic mortar or rocket fire and corresponding Israeli military response continue to occur.” It added that Gaza, adjacent to Israel’s western border, is “under the control of Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization.”
It recommended citizens “avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip, and if you are there, leave as soon as you are able.”
Israeli military forces carried out up to 50 airstrikes Sunday in Gaza in response to a rocket attack earlier in the day, which struck the Israeli border town of Sderot, Ahram Online News said Wednesday, citing the Times of Israel.
The Arab League condemned Israel’s attack. Deputy Secretary-General Ahmed Bin Hali suggested it was meant to provoke Palestinians by taking place on the anniversary of an attempted arson of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, in 1969.
The State Department also outlined recommendations for U.S. citizens in the West Bank, east of Israel. U.S. government employees are forbidden to travel in the West Bank, with the exception of the cities of Jericho and Bethlehem, and along Routes 1 and 90. They also cannot use public transportation anywhere in Israel or the West Bank and must give advance notification if traveling within 7 miles of the Gaza border, within 1.5 miles of Israel’s border with Lebanon or south of the town of Be’er Sheva in Israel.
A 51-day war between Israel and Gaza in 2014 killed more than 2,200 Gazans and injured more than 12,000, the United Nations reported. Since then at least 160 Palestinians have been killed in sporadic fighting in Gaza and the West Bank.