Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
France, India, Russia, UK issue travel warnings over Israel-Iran tensions

Saturday April 13, 2024

Countries including France, India, Russia, Poland and the United Kingdom have warned their citizens against travelling to Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and, in some cases, the wider region amid threats of an Iranian attack in response to a strike this month on its consulate in Damascus.

Iran has threatened reprisals against Israel over the strike in the Syrian capital on April 1, which killed seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members, including two generals, leading to fears of an escalation of violence in the Middle East.

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs on Friday advised its citizens against travelling to Iran, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In a statement on the social media platform X, the ministry added that relatives of Iran-based diplomats will return to France and French civil servants are now banned from conducting any missions in the countries and territories in question.

The UK told its citizens to avoid all but essential travel to Israel and Palestine over the “possibility of an attack on Israeli territory from Iran”.

In an update, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office warned against “all travel” to northern Israel, the Gaza Strip, areas near Gaza and the occupied West Bank – excluding occupied East Jerusalem and Route 1 between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Russia strongly recommended its citizens “refrain from travelling to the region”, emphasising security risks in Israel, Lebanon and Palestine.

“The situation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone as well as in the area of the ‘Blue Line’ between Lebanon and Israel remains unstable,” its Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry also advised against travel to Israel, Palestine and Lebanon.

“It cannot be ruled out that there will be a sudden escalation of military operations, which would cause significant difficulties in leaving these three countries,” it said in a statement. “Any escalation may lead to significant restrictions in air traffic and the inability to cross land border crossings.”

India’s statement covered Iran and Israel, calling on Indians not to go to the two countries until further notice in view of the “prevailing situation in the region”.

The Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi said Indian citizens who are in the two countries should observe “utmost precautions about their safety and restrict their movements to the minimum”.

Germany meanwhile warned its citizens to leave Iran specifically, saying escalating tensions could affect exit routes.

“In the current tensions, especially between Israel and Iran, there is a risk of a sudden escalation,” the Foreign Office said. “German citizens are at concrete risk of being arbitrarily arrested and interrogated and being given long prison sentences. Dual citizens with Iranian and German nationality are especially at risk,” it added.

Separately, German flagship airline Lufthansa extended its suspension of flights to and from Tehran until Thursday and will not use Iranian airspace during that time.

Real and viable threat, US says

The United States has restricted its employees in Israel and their family members from personal travel outside the greater Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beersheba areas.

An imminent attack by Iran on Israel is a “real” and “viable” threat, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists on Friday, adding that Washington would make sure the Israelis “have what they need and that they’re able to defend themselves”.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, President Joe Biden said: “We are devoted to the defence of Israel. We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel, and Iran will not succeed.”

The top US commander for the Middle East, General Erik Kurilla, is also in Israel for talks with its military officials on security threats. His trip was moved up from a previously scheduled date “due to recent developments”, Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder said on Thursday.

After Kurilla discussed the tensions with Iran with Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday, Gallant said the US and Israel were “shoulder to shoulder” in facing possible threats.

“We are prepared to defend ourselves on the ground and in the air, in close cooperation with our partners, and we will know how to respond,” the defence chief added.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting a person familiar with the matter, reported on Thursday that Israel was preparing for an attack by Iran as soon as Friday or Saturday.

Al Jazeera’s Hamdah Salhut, reporting from East Jerusalem, said the Israeli army announced that it was preparing on all fronts offensively and defensively.

“A couple of weeks ago, the Israelis increased their alertness level, calling up reservists and bolstering air defence systems,” she said, adding that Israeli officials said they were prepared for anything.

Israel has bombarded the Gaza Strip since October 7 and sent in ground forces, killing at least 33,600 Palestinians and injuring more than 76,000. Hamas’s October 7 attacks on southern Israel killed more than 1,100 people there.

Israel has also stepped up strikes against Iranian personnel and allies in Syria and Lebanon and has traded near daily cross-border fire with the Lebanese group Hezbollah since the start of the war.



Click here