US Embassy Issues Travel Warning for Employees Amid Iran Attack Threat
US Embassy Issues Travel Warning for Employees Amid Iran Attack Threat

By Jack Phillips

The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem issued a security alert for Americans in Israel amid reports that Iran is planning to attack Israel.

Several anonymous U.S. officials told CBS News, CNN, and other outlets this week that Iran may directly target Israel in an attack as soon as Friday in retaliation for an Israeli attack inside Syria that left seven Iranian commanders dead several weeks ago. Tehran has publicly stated it would launch a retaliatory attack over the Israeli strikes.

“The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem reminds U.S. citizens of the continued need for caution and increased personal security awareness as security incidents often take place without warning,” the U.S. Embassy’s bulletin issued Thursday stated. “The security environment remains complex and can change quickly depending on the political situation and recent events.”

While the bulletin did not mention Iran or a potential attack, the Embassy said that U.S. government employees and family members are “restricted from personal travel outside the greater Tel Aviv (including Herzliya, Netanya, and Even Yehuda), Jerusalem, and Be’er Sheva areas until further notice.”

The bulletin was issued, the Embassy said, “in response to security incidents and without advance notice,” noting that the State Department may “further restrict or prohibit U.S. government employees and their family members from traveling to certain areas of Israel” in the future, including other parts of Jerusalem and the West Bank.

“I’m not going to speak to the specific assessments that led to us to restrict our… employees and family members’ personal travel,” State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said during a recent press briefing. “But clearly we are monitoring the threat environment in the Middle East, and specifically in Israel.”

At the same time, the French government ordered the evacuation of its diplomats from Iran and also warned against travel to the Middle East amid wider fears of an Iranian attack that could trigger a larger, regional war. Notices were also issued Thursday by Australia and the United Kingdom not to travel to Israel.

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden issued a warning that Iran is “threatening to launch a significant attack on Israel” and said the U.S. government would be committed to protecting Israeli security.

“As I told Prime Minister Netanyahu, our commitment to Israel’s security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad. Let me say it again: ironclad. We’re going to do all we can to protect Israel’s security,” the president said, according to the White House transcript.

‘Constant Communication’

During a briefing on Friday, White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the U.S. government is “watching” the Iran-Israel situation “very closely,” although he provided no new details. He added that the Iran threat to Israel still exists.

The United States, he said, is not expecting Tehran to carry out attacks against American troops or assets in the region. “It would be imprudent if we didn’t take a look at our own posture in the region to make sure that we’re properly prepared,” Mr. Kirby said.

“We are in challenging times,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a recent visit to Tel Nof Airbase, according to a transcript. “We are in the midst of the war in Gaza, which is continuing at full force, even as we are continuing our relentless efforts to return our hostages. However, we are also prepared for scenarios involving challenges in other sectors.”

Israel did not claim responsibility for the airstrike on April 1 that killed Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ overseas Quds Force, and six other officers as they attended a meeting in the Damascus embassy compound.

But Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused Israel and said it “must be punished” and will be for an operation he said was equivalent to an attack on Iranian soil. “Their strength does not match that of the resistance fighters, so they claim the lives of children and the oppressed and killed more than thirty thousand innocent people,” he also said, according to state-run Iranian media.

It comes as the Israel-Hamas war that started in early October 2023 surpassed the six-month mark earlier in April. Several days ago, Israel confirmed that it has reduced the number of troops in Gaza.

In late March, former President Donald Trump called on Israel to “finish the war” in Gaza because Jerusalem and Mr. Netanyahu are “losing a lot support,” adding that the global opinion is turning against Israel.

“I think Israel made a very big mistake. I wanted to call [Israel] and say don’t do it. These photos and shots. I mean, moving shots of bombs being dropped into buildings in Gaza. And I said, oh, that’s a terrible portrait. It’s a very bad picture for the world. The world is seeing this … every night, I would watch buildings pour down on people,” the former president said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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