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US warns aid workers, journalists against flotillas

June 22, 2010 10:00 A.M. (Updated: June 23, 2010 8:52 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - The US State Department issued an updated travel warning Sunday, specifically advising its citizens against travel to Gaza.

On its website, the department strongly urged even journalists and aid workers not to attempt to enter the strip. The warning comes after US citizens on board a Gaza-bound aid ship were boarded and attacked by Israeli commandos set on preventing the ships from docking in the Palestinian area.

On 31 May, an American citizen was killed aboard a Turkish vessel, the Mevi Marmara, and dozens of others were injured, arrested, and then deported by Israeli forces.

The updated travel warning said the "ability of consular staff to offer timely assistance to U.S. citizens there is extremely limited," citing "a longstanding prohibition on travel by US government employees into the Gaza Strip."

Describing the situation in Gaza, the consular website said "The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strictly controls the crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip, and has essentially sealed the border. The security environment within Gaza and along its borders, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile."

Israeli forces control all crossing points into Gaza, and the coastal enclave has essentially been sealed since 2007. According to the UN, this four-year blockade has created a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza.

The US department also advises against travel to southern Israel due to the "ever-present risk of rocket and mortar attacks into Israel from Gaza."

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