Tuesday, April 15, 2008

State Dept: Do not Travel to Syria

WASHINGTON — Maybe Jimmy Carter just didn't get the memo.

(FOXNEWS)-The State Department on Tuesday issued a new travel warning on Syria, telling U.S. citizens to "thoroughly consider the risks of travel to Syria" and to "take adequate precautions to ensure their safety."

The former president intends this week to meet with Khaled Meshal, the exiled leader of the Palestinian terror group Hamas in Syria's capital city, Damascus. Carter has been roundly criticized by the Bush administration as well as top Israeli officials for the meeting scheduled for Friday.
Carter met with — and reportedly hugged — a Hamas leader at a West Bank reception Tuesday, a sign that he hasn't been deterred by criticism from the State Department and Israeli officials.
The State Department, meanwhile, says the travel warning is not timed to anything in particular and they are only adding new incidents of concern.
The State Department regularly issues travel warnings regarding countries where there are ongoing wars, civil unrest and street violence. The last warning on Syria was Sept. 18.

Carter also is visiting another warning-listed country on his visit: Israel. On Monday, he toured bomb-gutted buildings in the Israeli town Sderot, which were shelled from Gaza. There are 28 countries on the list at the moment, including Iraq, Iran, Colombia, Pakistan and Sudan.

Syria — which the U.S. has labeled as a state sponsor of terrorism — continues to be home to the offices of several terror groups, the new warning says.
Groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad along with other extremist organizatiosn "have the potential to be either the targets of or perpetrators of acts of violence," the statement reads, pointing to recent incidents that likely would make the usual day-trekker reconsider a leisurely visit.
"On February 12, 2008, an explosion occurred in the residential Kafer Soseh neighborhood of Damascus, killing Imad Moughniyeh, a senior Hizbollah operative.
"In 2006, the U.S. Embassy in Damascus was attacked by terrorists armed with guns, grenades, and a car bomb.
"The Syrian Government has allowed anti-U.S. demonstrations to occur; the latest was on March 3, 2008. Anti-U.S. demonstrations date back to September 2005, some of which have turned violent and led to damage to Western embassies, including the U.S. Embassy."
For those who aren't heeding the government's advice, the memo's authors advise registering with the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus as well as staying informed on new developments.
"Americans in Syria should exercise caution and take prudent measures to maintain their security."
Officials say "prudent measures" include "being aware of their surroundings, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, varying times and routes for all travel, and ensuring travel documents are current."


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