State Department issues rare “worldwide caution” advisory for Americans abroad as Middle East tensions grow
10/23/2023 // Cassie B. // Views

The U.S. Department of State has issued a worldwide travel advisory for Americans abroad, urging them to proceed with caution in the wake of growing violence and anger surrounding the Israel-Hamas war.

The rare "worldwide caution" advisory stated: “Due to increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.”

It instructed Americans to be particularly alert when going to areas that are frequented by tourists and to enroll in the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so they can receive alerts. They noted that enrolling in the program can also facilitate the locating of Americans who are involved in emergencies overseas.

The last time the State Department issued a worldwide alert was in August of 2022 following the killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri, an al-Qaeda leader, due to concerns that al-Qaeda supporters could attack American citizens abroad.

The State Department also recently raised their travel advisories for Israel and Lebanon to their highest levels, warning Americans to avoid traveling to Lebanon because of “the unpredictable security situation related to rocket, missile and artillery exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah or other armed militant factions.” They have authorized all non-emergency American government employees and their family members to leave.

They have also made a crisis intake Assistance Request form available to American citizens seeking help leaving Israel, Gaza, Lebanon, the West Bank and elsewhere.

Tensions may already be high in the region, but there are concerns that they could grow following President Biden’s address to the nation last night in which he expressed his intention to send billions of dollars in aid to Israel, which many feel is unreasonable in light of the growing civilian casualties as the Israeli government tries to stop Hamas terrorists and the siege on Gaza that is leaving innocent civilians without access to food, fuel and water.

A spokesperson for the State Department, Matt Miller, said that several factors are taken into consideration when they make decisions about issuing alerts.

Situation could get worse quickly

A diplomatic security expert and retired senior State Department official, Todd Brown, told CNN that the threat being seen right now “surpasses anything I have seen before in the lease with the potential to get even worse.”

While it is clear that the Middle East is a dangerous place right now, Brown cautioned that escalation could be seen in Europe as public sentiment over the Israeli government's actions in pursuing Hamas in Gaza becomes increasingly negative.

Brown, who said he told his daughter to postpone a trip of her own, said: “I do think that people should give some thought to their trips and not blindly think, ‘Oh, everything’s okay,’ or ‘I’m going into a European capital.”

In some areas, he said, American diplomats who are not ordered to return home may see their movement restricted for safety reasons, while some personnel will likely be withdrawn altogether. He believes this is especially likely in Iraq, Egypt and Jordan. Some embassies may also bolster their security with additional personnel or seek an extra layer of security from their host government.

On Monday, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was dispatched to help evacuate Americans from Israel. The boat, Rhapsody of the Seas, had cancelled scheduled sailings in the region in the wake of the violence and offered Americans free passage with food and accommodations with enhanced safety protocols. They worked with the Department of State to sail Americans seeking to flee from Haifa, Israel, to Limassol, Cyprus.

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