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Israel: Warning to avoid all but essential travel as some flights resume

The FCDO warns that international borders - both air and land - in Israel and OPTs could close at short notice.
The FCDO warns that international borders - both air and land - in Israel and OPTs could close at short notice. Copyright Shai Pal
Copyright Shai Pal
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
Published on Updated
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Tel Aviv international airport is still in operation, but many airlines have cancelled or diverted services.

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Israel's war with the fundamentalist group Hamas continues to escalate after militants sprung 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 wish to leave.

Read on for full details on advice from European governments, which airlines are still operating flights and how to get assistance.

What is the latest 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 stands at 2,700 Palestinians in Gaza, according to health officials, and more than 1,400 Israelis, report Israeli medical services. Nearly half of the population of Gaza - around 1 million people - are now displaced, says 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 guidelines for the affected region advising against all but essential travel to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).

This means holiday companies with clients in the zone must bring them back as quickly as possible and halt all future trips until the advice is downgraded.

In particular, the FCDO now advises against all travel to:

  • Gaza
  • the Sheba’a Farms and Ghajjar
  • Within 500m of the border with Lebanon (the ‘Blue Line’) east of Metula, including the northern edge of the town and and within 500m of the border with Syria (the ‘Alpha Line’)
  • The area close to the border with Gaza that includes the following: the area southwest of Ashkelon; the area south of route 35 and west of route 40 as far as Tlalim, not including Be’er Sheva; the area west of Be’er Sheva; the area north of route 211

The FCDO also warns that incidents have occurred in Tel Aviv, Be’er Sheva, Hadera, Jerusalem and the Old City (particularly at and around 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.

You should exercise particular caution when visiting these areas and only travel if essential.

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) similarly advises travellers to avoid all non-essential travel to Israel as “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 says.

The US State Department has increased its travel advisory for Israel, asking citizens to "reconsider travel."

“Terrorist groups, lone-actor terrorists and other violent extremists continue plotting possible attacks in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza,” the State Department said in the advisory. 

“Terrorists and violent extremists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities.”

Hotline and assistance for tourists in Israel

Israel’s Ministry of Tourism says they are “monitoring the situation and are committed to ensuring that all tourists visiting Israel are safe and informed.”

To help with this, they have set up a 'tourist hotline'.

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“Israel’s Ministry of Tourism will provide all necessary assistance to those who need it and is operating a tourist hotline via WhatsApp for tourists to stay informed on the situation as it evolves.”

The phone number for WhatsApp inquiries is +972-55-972-693 and the email address is: virtual@goisrael.gov.il

Visitors can also dial 104 for information and advice in several languages or contact Home Front Command on WhatsApp and SMS on +972 (0) 52-9104104.

What if I have a holiday booked in Israel?

It is imperative that you check your government's advice on travel to Israel before leaving for your trip.

For instance, if you choose to travel to Israel from the UK now that official advice warns against visiting, you won’t be protected by standard travel insurance policies.

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If you have booked a package holiday to Israel, you can cancel and receive a full refund because of the ‘no-go’ travel warning.

Are there flights to and from Israel?

Tel Aviv international airport - the main travel hub in the country - is still in operation.

After initially cancelling flights, Virgin Atlantic has announced it will restart one of its two daily flights from Heathrow to Tel Aviv on Friday 20 October.

But it is one of the few. Many other airlines continue to suspend or divert services.

US carriers United Airlines, Delta Airlines and American Airlines have suspended flights while European operators including Lufthansa, AirFrance, Finnair and Wizz Air have also been halted.

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British Airways confirmed last week that it was cancelling all scheduled flights to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport after it diverted a flight back to London citing security concerns.

EasyJet cancelled flights to Tel Aviv early last week and they remain suspended until further notice.

“Any customers affected by cancellations are eligible for a refund, voucher, or a free of charge transfer to a new flight,” a spokesperson from the airline said.

Portugal's TAP suspended flights last week and is offering refunds or rescheduling at no additional cost.

Dubai's Emirates airline has announced it is cancelling all services to Ben Gurion until 20 October.

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Israel’s El Al airline says it is operating in accordance with the instructions of security forces and that flights are running “as scheduled”.

Air Serbia and Ethiopian Airlines are operating a limited service and Etihad Airways is operating a daily flight between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi.

Bluebird Airways is continuing with its scheduled flights between Tel Aviv and Greek cities Heraklion and Athens and Larnaca in Cyprus. Georgian Airlines is continuing services between Israel and Georgia.

What should you do if you are currently in Israel?

The FCDO warns that international borders - both air and land - in Israel and OPTs could close at short notice.

British travellers are being “strongly encouraged” to register their presence with the FCDO.

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“We can then share important updates, including information to support you to leave the country. Fill in the form for every member of your family or group who is a British national,” the FCDO added.

If you are currently in Israel, your travel insurance still covers you until you manage to leave the country.

You should check with your airlines and travel insurers before travelling. You are advised to consult Israeli Home Front Command for more information: www.oref.org.il/en or call 104 if you are in Israel.

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