State Department Warns U.S. Citizens About Worldwide Travel

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The State Department has issued a "worldwide caution" for U.S. citizens traveling abroad, because of recent violence in the Middle East.

The warning came after some 1,000 students protesting Palestinian deaths in clashes with Israel hurled stones, tree branches and bags of rubbish at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus.

"The events of the past week in Israel and the West Bank [and] Gaza have raised the possibility that there may be protests in support of Palestinians throughout the Gulf region or elsewhere," the advisory says.

"The Department of State reminds all American citizens to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution. Avoid large crowds and gatherings, keep a low profile, and vary routes and times of all required travel," it adds.

The announcement referred to a previous advisory issued in June, which warned in general terms of "the possibility...that terrorists and other groups or individuals may take actions against Americans and American interests.

"In the past, these groups and individuals have not distinguished between U.S. Government and civilian targets," it said.

On Thursday, some 500 anti-riot police in Damascus used tear gas and clubs to prevent demonstrators from storming the U.S. Embassy.

University students protesting the more than 60 deaths of Palestinian rioters in clashes with Israel over the last week, reportedly yelled "Down, Down America" and "Damn you, America, this darkness will not last forever."

Thousands of angry protestors have also taken part in similar demonstrations in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen since the violence erupted last Thursday. Media in the Arab world have also launched scathing attacks against Israel.

Arab and Muslim countries have rallied around the Palestinian cause, sending humanitarian and medical aid to the PA-controlled territories and transporting some of the seriously wounded to hospitals in Arab countries. Jordan's King Abdullah symbolically donated his blood for the Palestinian wounded.

Israelis were warned earlier in the week to exercise caution while traveling abroad. The current Jewish holiday season, which lasts through October 21, is a popular travel time for Israelis. They were warned, especially when traveling to neighboring countries, not to identify themselves openly as being from Israel, for instance by driving cars with Israeli license plates.

Despite the travel advisories, the Israeli Tourism Ministry sought to quell fear Thursday."

"In view of the current political situation in our region, we should like to point out that it is safe to tour in Israel," said spokeswoman Hila Izhak.

"However, changes may occur in projected itineraries," she added.