US State Department issues rare 'worldwide caution' alert

Travel advisory did not mention any specific threat while tension spreads over Israel-Gaza war

US citizens board a ship at the port of Haifa in Israel to be taken to Cyprus on October 16. AFP
Powered by automated translation

The US State Department on Thursday issued a rare “worldwide caution” for US citizens, giving no specific reasons, as tension has grown over the Israel-Gaza war in the Middle East.

“Due to increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against US citizens and interests, the Department of State advises US citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” the warning read.

A militant attack in southern Israel sparked a new war between Hamas and Israel.

About 1,400 people were killed in Israel on October 7, and at least 3,700 people in Gaza have been killed in retaliatory Israeli strikes since.

Protests, including at US embassies, swept cities in the Middle East and beyond after a blast at a hospital in Gaza.

Local authorities said more than 470 people were killed in an Israeli air strike. Israel has denied the claim and said Islamic Jihad militants launched a failed rocket attack that hit the hospital.

The last time the US has issued a “worldwide caution” alert was in August 2022, after the death of Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri from a US drone strike in Afghanistan.

The State Department advised American citizens to be “alert in locations frequented by tourists” and sign up for emergency alerts from embassies.

“We're monitoring conditions around the world from our conditions in the region,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

"We take a number of factors into consideration when making that determination. It's not necessarily any one thing, but everything that we're watching around the world."

In the Middle East, the Department has elevated its travel advisory for Lebanon, suggesting that US citizens make plans to leave the country or avoid travel there.

“Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Lebanon,” its warning read.

“The Lebanese government cannot guarantee the protection of US citizens against sudden outbreaks of violence.”

The department is also offering evacuation routes for US citizens in Israel and the West Bank, while diplomatic negotiations continue for the safe departure of Americans in Gaza.

Other western countries, including Canada, Germany and the UK, have also advised people to avoid travel to Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia said its citizens should leave Lebanon.

Jihan Abdalla contributed reporting from Washington

Updated: October 19, 2023, 7:59 PM