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Americans Warned to Avoid Israel During Unrest

October 22, 2000|EDWARD WRIGHT


An explosion of Israeli-Palestinian violence has reverberated far beyond Israel. Among the developments:

Israel and the territories: Some of the worst clashes in decades have left more than 100 dead in the past three weeks, most of them Palestinians, and prompted the State Department to warn Americans against traveling to Israel, the West Bank or Gaza. Americans in Israel should avoid East Jerusalem, including the Old City, and the Jaffa section of Tel Aviv. Most of the violence has been in the occupied territories, but flash points within Israel have also included the northern towns of Nazareth and Tiberias. Rockets have been fired from southern Lebanon into parts of northern Israel and the Golan Heights.

Middle East: In Damascus, Syria, the U.S. Embassy was the target of violent demonstrations. The State Department warned that there may be other pro-Palestinian demonstrations throughout the Persian Gulf region and added that "individuals may be planning terrorist actions against United States citizens and interests in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey." As a precaution, the U.S. government has sporadically closed embassies and consulates throughout the region for short periods since the violence began. When open, they are a source of security information.

Elsewhere: Synagogues were firebombed in the Paris area and other cities, including Strasbourg and Lyons, and Jews reported being attacked by young French Arabs, some wearing traditional Palestinian head scarves, in central Paris and the northern suburbs. During an anti-Israel demonstration in Brussels, vandals rampaged through a downtown area, smashing windows. Warning that "anti-American demonstrations continue to take place in countries throughout the world," the State Department urged that Americans abroad "increase their security awareness."

South Pacific

Fiji: Five months after an attempted overthrow of the government, the political situation remains tense. An explosive device was found and disarmed last month at a popular hotel frequented by foreign travelers in Suva, the capital. Americans in Fiji should be careful and alert to suspicious or unclaimed packages and avoid crowds, the State Department says in an announcement effective until Jan. 11. The islands' interim military-backed government has imposed a curfew on the capital.


Laos: In what is apparently an unofficial curfew, foreigners in Vientiane, the capital, have been stopped at police checkpoints around midnight, questioned and sometimes fined, according to Western media reports. The tightened security, which includes armed soldiers on the streets at night, follows a series of mysterious bomb blasts in Vientiane since March 30 that have injured dozens of people, including several foreigners. Among the targets were the central post office, the central bus station and two other sites popular with tourists. Because of rebel or bandit activity, the U.S. Embassy advises Americans to avoid travel to Xiangkhoang province, including the Plain of Jars. The alert is in effect until mid-November.

Briefly . . .

Worldwide: The U.S. House of Representatives will vote soon on a resolution recognizing as genocide the 1915 killings of Armenians in what was then the Ottoman Empire. Depending on the outcome, there may be widespread protests in cities with large Turkish populations. For the next two weeks, the State Department urges Americans in such cities to keep a low profile and avoid crowds. . . . Italy: Heavy flooding in the Po River basin and along other rivers in northern Italy has closed roads, destroyed bridges and left more than 20 dead. Effective until mid-November, the State Department cautions Americans in northern Italy that they may experience detours and interruptions in electricity and phone service.

The U.S. State Department offers recorded travel warnings and advisories at (202) 647-5225, Internet


Edward Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly.

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