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US urges deferral of travel to Israel, increases first aid to Gaza
By MICHAEL WILNER
07/22/2014
While the State Department alert acknowledges the success of Iron Dome, it adds that "there have been impacts that have caused damage and injury."
 
VIENNA -- The State Department has warned its citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Israel, given an increase in rocket fire from Gaza and the current violent crisis with Hamas, in an updated travel alert issued Monday.

The notice tells Americans who choose to travel despite the warning to avoid regions of Israel near Gaza, in order to avoid the "real risks" of harm or death by small-arms fire, anti-tank machinery, rockets and mortars.

"Long-range rockets launched from Gaza since July 8, 2014 have reached many locations in Israel– including Tel Aviv, cities farther north, and throughout the south of the country," the warning reads. "Some rockets have reached Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank, including Bethlehem and Hebron.

While the State Department alert acknowledges the success of Iron Dome, it adds that "there have been impacts that have caused damage and injury."

"In light of the ongoing rocket attacks," it continues, American visitors to residents "should familiarize themselves with the location of the nearest bomb shelter or other hardened site, if available."

The updated advisory came as US Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to the region in an effort to broker an immediate cease-fire, modeled off an agreement that ended hostilities between Hamas and Israel in 2012.

Before departing for Egypt, Kerry announced an additional $47 million in humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, reiterating US President Barack Obama's growing concerns with the mounting civilian death toll from the conflict.

$15 million of those funds will boost operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), while the rest will go to USAID's disaster, humanitarian and emergency relief efforts.


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