by Loren G. Edelstein | December 11, 2017

The U.S. State Department issued a new worldwide travel caution on Dec. 6, on the same day President Trump announced his decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While the update did not specially mention that action, earlier in the week the department cautioned U.S. citizens to avoid Jerusalem's Old City and the West Bank due to concern that the move would incite a violent reaction.

Following is the new Worldwide Caution:
As part of the Department of State's continuous efforts to provide U.S. citizens traveling abroad with information about safety and security events, we are updating the Worldwide Caution with information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions, political violence and criminal activity against U.S. citizens and interests abroad. This replaces the Worldwide Caution dated Sept. 14, 2017.      
As terrorist attacks, political upheaval and violence often take place without any warning, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness when traveling. To better prepare for possible emergencies, U.S. citizens are encouraged to read Country Specific Information pages, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts on before planning a trip.
In addition to concerns stemming from terrorism, travelers should be alert to the possibility of political unrest, violence, demonstrations and criminal activities when traveling. Country-specific information pages and Travel Warnings should be consulted to obtain the latest data on such threats. 
Travelers are urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. The department uses these security messages to convey information about terrorist threats, security incidents, planned demonstrations, natural disasters, etc. In an emergency, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate or call the following numbers: 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. 
U.S. government facilities worldwide remain in a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  

Terrorist groups including ISIS, al-Qa'ida, their associates and those inspired by such organizations are intent on attacking U.S. citizens wherever they are. Extremists may use conventional or nonconventional weapons to target U.S. government and private interests. Terrorists are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack to more effectively target crowds, including the use of edged weapons, pistols and vehicles as weapons. Extremists increasingly aim to assault "soft" targets such as:

  • High-profile public events (sporting contests, political rallies, demonstrations, holiday events, celebratory gatherings, etc.)
  • Hotels, clubs and restaurants
  • Places of worship
  • Schools
  • Parks
  • Shopping malls and markets
  • Tourism infrastructure
  • Public transportation systems
  • Airports

In multiple regions, terrorists, guerrilla groups and criminals seek to kidnap U.S. citizens to finance their operations or for political purposes. The department also remains concerned that terrorists could again seek to down aircraft using concealed explosives or hijack commercial flights.
Private U.S. citizens should not travel to any country to participate in armed conflict. U.S. citizens are reminded that fighting on behalf of or providing other forms of support to designated terrorist organizations can constitute the provision of material support for terrorism, which is a serious crime that can result in penalties, including prison time and large fines. Please consult for additional information.