US State Department issues worldwide travel advisory: What to know
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The U.S. State Department announced a global travel advisory for those traveling internationally due to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. The agency cited extra caution against traveling in “risk” areas, such as Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank.
Fighting broke out on Oct. 7 in Israel after Hamas launched an attack, killing and capturing more than 1,000 people. Israeli Defense Forces mounted a swift response, triggering a war between the nation and Hamas, which controls the besieged Gaza Strip.
Since the attack, the death count for Palestinians exceeded 5,000, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as of Monday. The Associated Press reported that the death count for Israelis totaled 1,400.
The conflict is playing out against the backdrop of religious tensions, an Israeli government in turmoil over judicial reform, and increased Israeli military raids within Palestinian territories.
What is a travel advisory?
The State Department issues travel advisories in incidents involving war, political turmoil, civil unrest, and other cases that may impact global travel.
On Oct. 19, the agency issued a worldwide caution advisory 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.”
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Who does the travel advisory affect?
According to Arizona’s former Director of Homeland Security Tim Roemer, this warning impacts all Americans traveling abroad, even outside the Middle East. Now the chief security officer for a private sector company, Roemer spent 18 years in government service, including his duty as a C.I.A. agent and running cyber security for the state of Arizona.
These types of situations have the risk of spilling over into other regions, he said.
“Lots of copycat violence takes place in the world whenever you have international incidents like this,” Roemer said. “These types of wars tend to spark a lot of outrage.”
The travel advisory was heightened to a worldwide scale due to the increased violence not just being concentrated in one specific region but could affect areas even in Europe, according to Roemer.
“It’s a serious advisory to come from the state department. They don’t take these things lightly.”
What can international travelers do to stay safe while the advisory is in effect?
Roemer believes it’s important to exercise caution now more than ever before and when traveling abroad, which includes always paying attention to your surroundings, having a heightened sense of alertness, and regularly communicating with friends and family back home. He also said it is imperative to pay attention to the news.
“Watch what’s happening. You don’t want to get stuck somewhere by being unaware of what’s going on in the world,” said Roemer.
While the advisory will remain active as long as the State Department believes it is relevant, Roemer advised Americans traveling internationally to remain vigilant, especially if they witness any unusual or suspicious activity.
“If you see something that seems out of the ordinary, say something. Don’t just keep it to yourself,” Roemer said. “Report it (to local law enforcement). It could actually be really important and make a huge difference.”
Roemer also encouraged travelers to be more organized and have contingency plans when traveling internationally, especially for those who may already be abroad. This includes knowing all of the airports in your region and being prepared for the unexpected.
“In an emergency, you’re not going to have good communication,” said Roemer. “Your devices will likely not connect in certain situations. Any number of things could happen.” For those planning on traveling internationally, including to regions in Europe that border West Asian territories, Roemer suggested possibly postponing or reconsidering at this time, depending on the location.
Travelers can also enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service that allows U.S. citizens traveling and living abroad to connect with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The federal program also sends out alerts in the event of an emergency, which can be sent to your email and any smart device.
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