The State Department issued a new ‘Worldwide Caution’ to Americans traveling overseas on Wednesday, after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. has officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel‘s capital.
The update did not include specific warnings about Israel, the West Bank and Gaza; that region’s travel advisory dates back to April.
But the State Department did advise Americans to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank on Tuesday, anticipating strong reactions to Trump’s speech once the subject matter became public.
The global warning advised American citizens to ‘maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness when traveling.’
A previous alert was posted on September 14.
But Matt Lee, an Associated Press reporter widely considered the dean of the U.S. diplomatic press corps, tweeted Wednesday night that the State Department’s move was highly irregular.
‘The last time the @statedept issued a “Worldwide Caution” because of a US policy decision was March 2003 at the start of the Iraq war,’ he wrote.
The State Department is also warning that ‘[i]n addition to concerns stemming from terrorism, travelers should be alert to the possibility of political unrest, violence, demonstrations, and criminal activities when traveling.’
‘U.S. citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. ‘
In addition to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Trump said Wednesday that he plans to move the American embassy there from Tel Aviv.
The U.S. has asked Israel to temper its response to Wednesday’s proclamation, hoping to minimize backlash and violent threats
‘While I recognize that you will publicly welcome this news, I ask that you restrain your official response,’ read a State Department talking-points memo designed to help U.S. diplomats advise Israeli officials.
‘We expect there to be resistance to this news in the Middle East and around the world. We are still judging the impact this decision will have on U.S. facilities and personnel overseas,’ the document said.
The status of Jerusalem, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions, is one of the biggest obstacles to reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there.
Palestinians want the capital of an independent state of their own to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.
Violent protests erupted Wednesday night in Bethlehem, with angry Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli troops.
Other spontaneous protests broke out in Gaza overnight, with angry youths burning tires, Trump posters and both American and Israeli flags.
The Israeli military said it would deploy several battalions to the West Bank ahead of Friday, while other troops have been put on alert to address ‘possible developments.’
The front page of one Lebanese newspaper declared ‘Death to America’ on Thursday.
The terror group Hamas called for an uprising to make Trump ‘regret’ his speech.
‘The American decision is an aggression on our people and a war on our sanctuaries,’ Ismail Haniyeh, the group’s leader, said on Thursday.
‘We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada in the face of the Zionist enemy,’ Haniyeh said.
‘Let December 8 be the first day of the intifada against the occupier.’