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Monday, June 10, 2013

US Embassy: 'Golan is Dangerous, Be Careful'

In a message to U.S. citizens abroad, the American Embassy in Tel Aviv advised U.S. citizens to stay away from Road 98, one of the two main north-south roads on the Golan Heights. In the message, the embassy says that “, travel on route 98 in the Golan Heights or any road or point east of route 98 is off limits for all U.S. Government personnel,” at least through the end of the week. “U.S. citizens are advised to defer non-essential travel to and within the Golan Heights and to exercise an extra measure of caution,” the message added.

Fighting between Syrian rebels and soldiers loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has reached the Israeli-Syrian border. Last week, Syrian rebels briefly captured the area of the Kuneitra crossing between Israel and Syria. The rebel forces on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights are said to belong to the Jabhat al-Nusra group closely identified with Al Qaeda.

During the fighting last week, several mortar shells hit a UN outpost in Kuneitra, right on the border with Israel. In the past several weeks, numerous shells and bullets fired from Syria have hit Israeli targets in the Golan. The IDF believes that the mortars and bullets were “strays,” the result of the all out war and wild fighting going on between rebels and Syrian soldiers.

The message did not say why the warning was in effect just for this week, or whether it would be renewed. In general when traveling throughout the Middle East, including in Israel, the embassy advises, “remain aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates.  Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security and follow instructions of local authorities.”

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