Israel’s war with the fundamentalist group Hamas continues to escalate after the militants launched a surprise attack on the country from Gaza on Saturday.
As a popular holiday destination and the source of much business travel, many travellers are wondering whether it is still safe to travel to Israel, or how to get out if they want to leave.
Read on to find out what European governments are advising, which airlines are still operating flights and how to get help.
What is the current situation in Israel?
Rockets have been fired into Israel, hitting cities including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and armed terrorists are present in the country.
The latest death toll is 2,700 Palestinians in Gaza, according to health officials, and more than 1,400 Israelis, according to Israeli medical services. Nearly half of Gaza’s population – some 1 million people – are now displaced, according to the UN.
Authorities have also confirmed the deaths of nine US citizens, while 10 British citizens are feared dead or missing.
Is it safe to travel to Israel?
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has updated its travel advice for the affected region, advising against all but essential travel to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).
This means that travel companies with clients in the area must bring them home as soon as possible and halt all future travel until the advice is downgraded.
The FCDO also warns that incidents have occurred in Tel Aviv, Be’er Sheva, Hadera, Jerusalem and the Old City (particularly at and around the Damascus Gate, Herod’s Gate, Lion’s Gate and the Chain Gate), Nablus, Jenin, Hebron, the Jordan Valley, at Israeli checkpoints, near settlement outposts and around Palestinian refugee camps.
The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also advises travellers to avoid all non-essential travel to Israel as “the ongoing attacks pose a significant security risk”.
“Please avoid all travel to southern Israel and continue to exercise extreme caution within Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” the DFA said.
The US State Department has upgraded its travel advisory for Israel, urging citizens to “reconsider travel”.
“Terrorist groups, lone wolf terrorists, and other violent extremists continue to plan potential attacks in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” the State Department said in the advisory.
“Terrorists and violent extremists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist sites, transportation hubs, markets/shopping centres, and local government facilities.”