Pesach travel guidelines: Israelis at heightened risk of attack

The Israeli government's counter-terrorism bureau, the National Security Council (NSC), has issued updated travel guidelines for Israeli citizens during the upcoming Passover holidays.

The guidelines extend from Passover to the festival of Shavuot 50 days later – a festive period which also includes Israel Independence Day and Lag Ba'Omer, and during which terrorist groups tend to exhibit a higher motivation to attack Israelis and Jews worldwide.

Both Shia and Sunni jihadist groups figure large in the travel warning, chief among them the so-called Islamic State terror group, or ISIS, and Iran's global network of terrorist proxies, from the Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force to Hezbollah.

"The global terrorism campaign of Iran and Hezbollah poses an ongoing threat against Israeli and Jewish targets throughout the world," the Council said, particularly against tourist sites popular with Israeli travelers, and "Jewish symbols." Travelers should be on particularly high alert during Seder Night and the Chol Hamoed period, during which large concentrations of Jews would present prime targets for terrorists, it added.

The travel guidelines are based on concrete, reliable intelligence sources, which outlined a very real threat of attack during those periods.

Turkey is described as particularly dangerous for Israeli tourists – an unsurprising addition to the list given recent severe travel warnings issued over fear of further ISIS terror attacks. The government recently ordered all Israelis to leave Turkey, such is the concern over possible imminent attacks.

A senior NSC official said Tuesday afternoon that the agency had identified a significant spike in intelligence warnings of terror plots against Israelis and Jews in Turkey.

"There is a danger throughout all of Turkey, and we are concerned over (the possibility of) attacks against Israeli tourist sites" specifically, as well as "against Western tourist sites in which Israelis could be harmed" as well, he said.

The official stressed that "there is no connection between the travel warning and diplomacy with Turkey, or any other diplomatic process," referring to continued reports of an impending breakthrough in rapprochement talks between Jerusalem and Ankara.

Friendly relations with any given country have no impact on such travel warnings, he explained. "The security of the Israeli and Jewish public is the only consideration from our perspective.

The NSC went so far as to recommend Israelis cancel any travel plans to Turkey, and said it was working closely with the Israeli Travel Agents Association to ensure customers would not be charged for cancelling trips to countries under a heightened travel warning.

Another potential ISIS target on the list is Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, where the jihadist group's official Egyptian branch – Sinai Province – is engaged in an ongoing insurgency with Cairo. Sinai Province has also vowed repeatedly to attack Israeli targets.

Israelis are warned against any travel to Sinai.

"Sinai is in a state of severely high escalation," the guidelines read. "We again urge not to go there, and for those already there to leave.

"The region is dangerous for Israelis, both due to threats of terror attacks against Israelis, as well as kidnappings," it continued, stressing that the security threat against Israelis stands at the highest level.

Regarding Western Europe, though there are no concrete intelligence warnings of impending attacks, in light of recent terrorist attacks in France and Belgium Israeli tourists there are urged to stay alert.

"Naturally, Israelis travel in Western Europe and will continue to do so," the security official said. "All we are saying is to be alert and aware," particularly in areas with large concentrations of people.

The NSC also warned of possible attacks throughout the African continent.


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