Israeli gang wars prompt US State Dept travel warning

The travel warning also cites assault by Jewish settlers and IDF troops on protestors.

The US State Department has issued a travel warning for Israel, due to criminal activities by organized crime within the country. This is the first time that the State Department has mentioned organized crime in Israel as a factor liable to jeopardize tourists or other foreign residents traveling in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

As usual, the bulk of the travel warning concerns potential risks from Palestinian terrorism, but it also warns about the risk of assault by Jewish settlers and IDF troops against participants in demonstrations and protests. This warning is fairly new.

The travel warning appears on the State Department website alongside similar warnings about other countries. These warnings are periodically updated, with the warning for Israel last updated on February 27.

The section referring to organized crime in Israel states, “"Violent confrontation between organized criminal elements has led to the death and injury of innocent bystanders in incidents throughout Israel, including an October 26, 2005 incident in which a bomb destroyed a Tel Aviv apartment building, killing three people and wounding 5. Such incidents in the past have involved the use of bombs, grenades, anti-tank missiles, and small arms fire, and have taken place in Tel Aviv, Caesarea, Ramle, Acre, Hadera, Arad, and the Galilee."

The travel warning does not include specific recommendations against travel from one place to another, travel times, and the like.

The State Department warns against participating in demonstrations, saying, “In recent months, citizens of Western nations, including Americans, involved in pro-Palestinian volunteer efforts were assaulted and injured in the Occupied Territories by Israeli settlers and harassed by the IDF. Those taking part in demonstrations, non-violent resistance, and “direct action”, are advised to cease such activity for their own safety.”

Israel is the only Western country, except for the Philippines, for which the State Department publishes a travel warning. It is also the only country classified by the International Monetary Fund as “developed” with such a warning. The State Department has issued travel warnings for Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa), Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

Only the travel warning for Nigeria explicitly mentions criminal activity. Yet the situation is Israel far removed from that in Nigeria, as described by the State Department: “The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to Nigeria. The lack of law and order in Nigeria poses considerable risks to travelers. Violent crime committed by ordinary criminals, as well as by persons in police and military uniforms, can occur throughout the country.”

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on March 1, 2006

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