US citizens living abroad have received a warning from the State Department urging them to be cautious and vigilant in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.
State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said on October 19 that “we take a number of factors into consideration when making that determination” to issue a worldwide alert.
The official statement takes into account the “increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, (and) demonstrations or violent actions against US citizens and interests” as potential threats to American lives abroad.
It’s not necessarily any one thing but everything that we’re watching around the world.Matt Miller, State Department spokesperson
In the past week, non-emergency US government personnel and family members have been allowed to depart from their stationary posts in Lebanon and Israel under the Travel Advisory raised by the State Department. Official diplomatic personnel and family members in places like Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq may also be invited to depart from embassies.
In August 2022, the State Department issued a worldwide alert in the wake of the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, warning that “supporters of al- Qa’ida, or its affiliated terrorist organizations, may seek to attack US facilities, personnel, or citizens”.
Todd Brown, a retired senior State Department official who worked in diplomatic security for more than 30 years, told CNN the potential threat situation around the Israel-Hamas war “surpasses anything I have seen before in the lease with the potential to get even worse.”
“Emotions and the temperature is as high as I can ever imagine it has been,” said Brown, adding that the threat of escalation “isn’t just confined to the Middle East,” but could also spread to Europe as outrage over the Israeli government’s actions towards Gaza grows. The death toll of Israelis and Palestinians surpassed 5,000 on October 19, becoming the deadliest war on the Gaza Strip.
The notice issued on October 19 advises US citizens abroad to “stay alert in locations frequented by tourists” and urges them to enroll in the State Department’s “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency overseas.”
The State Department will also be looking at whether to restrict the movement of diplomats within the country for safety reasons. Some diplomatic posts already have these restrictions.