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Travel Advisory : Caution Urged in Israel, Neighboring Lands

March 27, 1994|EDWARD WRIGHT | Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly

Middle East

Israel and the Territories: The U.S. State Department warned Americans traveling in Israel to stay out of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after the Feb. 25 massacre of more than two dozen Muslim worshipers at a mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron. Within Israel itself, Americans were advised not to use public transportation and to avoid bus stops, crowds and demonstrations. Israel stepped up security, closing the plaza in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City and restricting access to the nearby Al Aqsa mosque. Americans traveling anywhere in the Middle East or Europe should be "particularly aware of their surroundings, avoiding all crowds and demonstrations and maintaining a low profile," the State Department cautioned.

Jordan and Egypt: The tremors from the Hebron killings were particularly felt in these two countries. In Jordan, the State Department advised Americans to be careful and to avoid two parts of the capital--east Amman and the downtown souk area--plus any refugee camp. Although there apparently have been no specific threats against Americans in Jordan, the department noted two recent attacks on foreigners in Amman: A British citizen and a German citizen were stabbed in separate incidents, both left with superficial wounds. In Egypt, already troubled by terrorist attacks on tourism facilities, the government tightened security around the Israeli Embassy, synagogues and diplomats' homes after the massacre. Israeli tourists were being discouraged from visiting Egypt, according to the Reuters news service. A previously unknown group threatened Americans and Israelis in Egypt to avenge the Hebron attack, Reuters said.

Europe

Great Britain: London air traffic was disrupted when Irish Republican Army terrorists, over a five-day period, lobbed three series of mortars into Heathrow Airport early this month. None of the dozen shells exploded, leading to speculation that they may have been dummy rounds intended simply to demonstrate the IRA's attack capabilities. Most shells landed on runways or in parking lots; one struck the roof of Terminal 4, causing its evacuation. Airport security was intensified, with hundreds of officers patrolling Heathrow and its perimeter. Describing the attacks as evidence of a new "IRA tactical audacity," one American analyst said they were intended "to disrupt air traffic, attract publicity, embarrass the security forces and pressure the government" during negotiations over Northern Ireland.

Russia

A London-based consulting firm says there were 7,000 reported crimes against foreigners, mostly extortion, in Russia during the first half of 1993. In a report quoted by Reuters, the Control Risks Group estimates that there are about 3,000 organized crime groups (the Russian Interior Ministry estimates 5,700) engaged in racketeering, extortion and kidnaping in the former Soviet Union.

Briefly . . .

Worldwide: The March 4 conviction of followers of Sheik Omar Abdurrahman in the World Trade Center bombing trial "may precipitate strong reactions from Islamic extremists" in Egypt and other countries, the State Department warned. Americans overseas, especially in the Middle East, South Asia or North Africa, should be alert to continuing developments, the department advised.

Hot Spots: State Department travel warnings are in effect for Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Congo, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, North Korea, Peru, Rwanda, Serbia and Montenegro, Somalia, Sudan and Tajikistan, and also for East Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The U.S. State Department offers recorded travel warnings and advisories at (202) 647-5225; the fax line is (202) 647-3000.

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