BY INSI

Travel advisory Gaza

Since 7 July hundreds of rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza. Israel responded with a barrage of missiles that claimed more than 200 Palestinian lives, and on 17 July launched a ground invasion.

Journalists traveling to Gaza should be aware that the British Information and Services Office in Gaza is now closed due to the current situation. The British FCO can no longer offer any consular assistance in Gaza. Other nationalities should check with their relevant embassy or consulate.

Areas to be vigilant

The situation throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem is extremely tense and the security situation is volatile with a heavy Israeli security presence everywhere.

Take great care when traveling anywhere in the West Bank, particularly in areas close to refugee camps, in and around Israeli settlements and in the cities of Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron. Demonstrations and other forms of civil unrest can occur at short notice and often turn violent. Regional developments can have an impact on the local security situation.

Stay alert in and around the Old City in Jerusalem as isolated protests and demonstrations can occur at short notice.

Violent protests have broken out in a number of Arab towns in Israel (including Qalansawe, Taybeh, Tira, Baqa al-Garbiyye in the triangle, Ar’ara in Wadi Ara, and Nazareth). 

The Rafah border with Egypt is reportedly open to Egyptian passport holders, foreign passport holders and those requiring urgent medical attention.

All travel to the Sheba’a Farms and Ghajjar along the border with Lebanon (the ‘Blue Line’) should be planned with care, as should all travel east of Route 98 along the Syrian border, where rocket attacks and sporadic gunfire have occurred without warning since 2012.

INSI advises extra vigilance after Friday prayers and on religious holidays.

Entering Israel

 

Most foreign journalists don’t need a visa to enter Israel, but you should check with your local Israeli embassy.

 

Since January 2013 a pilot scheme has been introduced giving visitors an entry card instead of an entry stamp on arrival. You should keep this card with your passport until you leave. This is evidence of your legal entry into Israel and may be required, particularly at any crossing points into the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

At the Allenby Bridge crossing with Jordan, as well as at Ben Gurion Airport, Israeli border officials have on occasions used an entry stamp for certain travellers that states ‘Palestinian Authority only’ or ‘Judea and Samaria only’. Since travellers entering via the Allenby Bridge crossing must pass through Israeli checkpoints and Israeli-controlled territory to reach Jerusalem or Gaza, this restriction effectively limits travellers.

Israeli border officials at Ben Gurion Airport have also at times required certain travellers to sign a form that states that he/she is not allowed to enter territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority unless he/she obtains advance authorisation from the Israeli ‘Territory Actions Co-ordinator’, and that violating this restriction may result in the traveller being deported from Israel and barred from entry for up to 10 years.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for at least six months from the date of entry into Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Previous travel to other countries

Evidence of a previous visit to another country in the region in the form of an entry/exit stamp in your passport does not normally prevent entry into Israel, although it may lead to additional questioning at the border.

It is for the Israeli authorities to determine the right of entry into Israel, so if you have any particular concerns about previous travel to another country, you should contact the Israeli embassy in your home country.

Security

You should expect lengthy personal questioning and baggage searches by security officials on arrival and departure from Israel. Electrical items, including laptops, may be taken from departing passengers for security inspection and either stored in the aircraft baggage hold, or returned to you at your destination. Damage may occur, so make sure you are insured for this.

If you arrive with valuable personal items you may be required to pay a deposit that is refundable on or after departure.

Israeli security officials have on occasion requested access to travellers’ personal e-mail accounts or other social media accounts as a condition of entry. Be aware of this if you have any contacts which you do not wish them to see. Consider taking a clean computer and clean phone. Be conscious of protecting your sources.

Entering Gaza

Entry to the OPTs (including by sea to Gaza) is controlled by the Israeli authorities. You may be detained on arrival and deported if you are intending to enter Gaza without permission. Trying to enter Gaza by sea will breach the restrictions imposed by the Israeli navy and may result in you being fired upon or arrested. 

You will need to contact the relevant Israeli authorities well in advance and ensure you have press passes and accreditation. All crossings via Erez to/from the Gaza Strip need to be coordinated five hours in advance and preferably the day before. A government press office (GPO) card is necessary, but will not be sufficient without pre-coordination.

To arrange the crossing you must email Adina Horesh of the Gaza CLA's spokesperson office at [email protected] with your full name; nationality; passport number; GPO card number; media organisation; day and time of crossing, and from which side of the border you will be arriving.

Crossing hours are Sunday through Thursday 8:00-16:00 and Friday from 8:00-13:00. The crossing is closed on Saturday. At this time it is being closed on an ad hoc basis, depending on the security situation, so check before travelling to Gaza.

If your entry to Gaza is via the Rafah crossing, you will need to contact the relevant Egyptian authorities in advance. The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza is open on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays. The crossing is subject to regular closure for long periods of time.

 

For more information please contact [email protected] or see the British Foreign Office website.