US restricts staff in Israel from traveling outside cities as Iran attack threat persists

The U.S. State Department is restricting travel for government employees and their family members outside of major cities in Israel as concerns remain high Friday that Iran could attack at any moment in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike that destroyed the Iranian consulate in Syria. 

The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem has posted a message on its website saying ‘Out of an abundance of caution, U.S. government employees and their family members are restricted from personal travel outside the greater Tel Aviv (including Herzliya, Netanya, and Even Yehuda), Jerusalem, and Be’er Sheva areas until further notice.’ 

It added that ‘the security environment remains complex and can change quickly depending on the political situation and recent events.’ 

On Wednesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei promised to retaliate against Israel — saying ‘it will be punished’ — for an airstrike that demolished Iran’s consulate in Syria earlier this month. Khamenei said the strike in Damascus, which left several Iranian generals dead, was ‘wrongdoing’ and akin to an attack on Iran itself. 

State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller, when asked about the new U.S. travel advisory Thursday, said ‘we have seen Iran making public threats against Israel in the past few days.’ 

‘Israel’s in a very tough neighborhood and have been monitoring the security situation. You saw us slightly adjust our travel warnings at the beginning of this conflict. And we conduct ongoing assessments all the time about the situation on the ground,’ he continued. 

‘I’m not going to speak to the specific assessments that led to us to restrict our families, employees and family members’ personal travel. But clearly, we are monitoring the threat environment in the Middle East and specifically in Israel,’ he added. ‘And that’s what led us to give that warning our employees and their family members and to make it public so all U.S. citizens who either live in Israel or are traveling there are aware of it.’ 

U.S. Central Command Gen. Michael Kurilla also met with Israel Defense Forces Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen Hezi Halevi in Israel on Thursday.

Kurilla was scheduled to visit Israel, but he took the trip sooner than planned due to threats from Iran against Israel, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed during a press conference. 

Fox News’ Lawrence Richard, Peter Aitken and Yonat Friling contributed to this report. 

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