Pentagon Suspends US Defense Department Support for Congressional Visits to Israel

Pentagon Suspends US Defense Department Support for Congressional Visits to Israel

Washington - The US Pentagon has taken the step of withdrawing Defense Department support for congressional visits to Israel and implementing restrictions on official trips to the country due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, as revealed in an official memo.

This memo, which was acquired by CNN and composed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, advises against visits to Israel by members of Congress and their staff. It specifies that the Defense Department will not provide support for Congressional delegation visits to Israel during this period. Importantly, Defense Secretary Austin clarified that this policy does not impact the regular deployment of military and civilian personnel to US Central Command, and it does not apply to the President, Vice President, or top military leaders. However, other senior members of the military may seek approval for travel to Israel on a case-by-case basis.

The decision is rooted in safety concerns. A Department official emphasized that a congressional visit to Israel would place an "undue burden on our service members," underlining the perilous nature of the situation at present. Notably, during a visit to Israel last month, a delegation led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had to take cover due to rocket attacks.

US State Department Advisory: The US State Department issued a rare advisory on October 19, urging Americans overseas to "exercise increased caution" because of heightened tensions and an elevated risk of terrorism worldwide, triggered by the Israel-Hamas conflict. The advisory underscores the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against US citizens and interests.

On October 14, the US Department had already raised its travel advisory levels for the region. Israel and the West Bank were placed at Level 3 (reconsider travel), while Gaza was designated at Level 4 (do not travel). In addition to these changes, last month, the US Embassy in Lebanon updated its travel advisory to Level 4.

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