February 24, 2024

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Pentagon pulls US Defense Dept support for Congressional visits to Israel

Washington : The US Pentagon has pulled Defense Department support for congressional visits to Israel and also restricted official trips to the country amid the ongoing war in Gaza, according to an official memo.

The memo obtained by CNN and written by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, discourages members of Congress and their staff from visiting Israel, saying Defense Department “support to Congressional delegation visits will be unavailable to Israel during this period”.

Austin also noted that the policy does not affect the normal flow of military and civilian personnel to US Central Command, nor does it apply to the President, Vice President or the top leaders of the military.

Other senior members of the military may ask for approval to travel to Israel, CNN quoted the memo as saying.

A Department official said a congressional visit to Israel would create an “undue burden to our service members”, warning that the situation is “incredibly dangerous right now”.

During a visit to Israel last month, a delegation led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was forced to rush to shelter from rockets.

On October 19, the US State Department had issued a rare advisory that Americans overseas “exercise increased caution” due to heightened tensions and chances of terrorism around the world, triggered by the Israel-Hamas war.

“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 advisory said

On October 14, the Department had moved Israel and the West Bank to Level 3 (reconsider travel) and Gaza to Level 4 (do not travel). 

Also last month, the US Embassy in Lebanon had updated the travel advisory to Level 4.

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