U.S. Issues Travel Warning for Golan Area

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli soldiers secure a road leading to where projectiles fired from Syria hit the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan Heights, near Majdal Shams, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. The Israeli military struck artillery positions in Syria on Tuesday after a projectile from that country's civil war hit the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan Heights, but denied a Syrian claim that Syrian forces shot down two Israeli aircraft. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
IDF soldiers secure a road leading to the area where projectiles fired from Syria hit the Golan Heights, near Majdal Shams, Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

After nearly a week of “errant” mortar shells falling on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights border, the U.S. has issued a warning to American citizens to stay away from the area. “Due to multiple mortar rounds launched from Syria and landing in the northern Golan Heights in recent days, we urge U.S. citizens to carefully consider and possibly defer travel to that area until the situation stabilizes,” the message from the State Department said. “The United States Embassy in Tel Aviv continues to closely monitor the security situation and advises U.S. citizens to visit the website of the Government of Israel’s Home Front Command for further emergency preparedness guidance.”

Several weeks ago, the U.S. banned employees of the American embassy from traveling on several main highways in the Golan. “Recent events underscore the importance of situational awareness,” the warning read. “We remind you to be aware of your surroundings at all times, to monitor the media, and to follow directions of emergency responders.”

Several weeks ago, the U.S. reiterated its warning about traveling to Yehudah, Shomron and Gaza, “urging those present to depart as soon as possible when border crossings are open. The security situation remains complex in Israel and the West Bank, and can change quickly depending on the political environment, recent events, and geographic location.”

The security environment within Gaza and on its borders “is dangerous and volatile. Violent demonstrations and shootings occur on a frequent basis and the collateral risks are high. While Israel and Hamas continue to observe the temporary cease-fire that ended the Gaza conflict in 2014, sporadic mortar or rocket fire and corresponding Israeli military response continue to occur,” the message said.

Americans also needed to be alert when visiting Yehudah and Shomron, the message added. “While the frequency of attacks has abated significantly since April 2016, the possibility of random violence continues to exist and can happen without warning,” the message said, acknowledging that “perceived religious affiliation was a factor in some of the attacks.”

In what appeared to observers to be a classic American example of “evenhandedness,” the message said that “attacks were carried out using knives, vehicles and guns. Israeli security forces reacted with deadly force, which resulted in some bystanders being injured or killed in the crossfire.”

However, the message did not point out who was carrying out those attacks against whom. The only mention of Palestinians or the Palestinian Authority in the message described how “the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority both make considerable efforts to police major tourist attractions and ensure security, particularly in areas where foreigners frequently travel.”