US warns citizens of Gaza travel

Barak tells Gates time for Iran sanctions should be limited.

White House 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
White House 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
WASHINGTON – The US State Department is cautioning American citizens not to participate in future attempts to infiltrate Gaza by sea as part of a new travel warning released late Sunday night.
“US citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea. Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest and deportation of US citizens,” the warning states.
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The new travel advisory comes after Israel requested that countries issue such directives to discourage further attempts to break the Gaza blockade, following a May raid in which IDF commandos killed nine passengers, one a Turkish-American, on a ship that refused to be inspected in Israel.
On that ship as well as the five others in the same flotilla, many Americans were arrested and deported, with several sustaining various degrees of injury.
The Foreign Ministry earlier welcomed a similar warning issued by Britain last week, saying that such statements were significant because they made it clear that these governments view the attempt to break the blockade negatively, and hint that those who do take part in the flotillas anyway should not later come to their home governments looking for support.
The US travel warning noted that American diplomats’ limited access to Gaza meant that “the ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to US citizens there is extremely limited.”
It also recommended more generally that US citizens not travel to Gaza or the neighboring Israeli towns hit by rockets attacks; be cautious in Jerusalem, particularly on holy days and near public spaces targeted by terrorists; and be aware that Israel routinely imposes closures on the West Bank and can otherwise make it difficult for Americans to travel in the area.
The new advisory came out hours before Defense Minister Ehud Barak landed in Washington for a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Monday, in which the flotilla raid featured prominently.
Other top agenda items included Israel’s broader policy toward Gaza, the American-brokered indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians, and Iran.
The last issue was particularly informed by the new round of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council over Teheran’s refusal to accede to international demands that it halt the enrichment of uranium.
Israel has supported the US effort on sanctions, but Barak has warned Gates that there should be a time limit in which the sanctions would be allowed to work.
Barak is expected to press the issue when he meets later in the week with members of Congress who are involved in drafting new US sanctions legislation.
He is in the United States to participate in the conference of the Socialist International, a global organization of social democratic, socialist and labor parties, in New York later Monday and on Tuesday. He was due to meet UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon shortly after press time Monday.
He will return to Washington on Wednesday for two further days of meetings with Obama administration officials, including top White House aides and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.