Israel: Heavy fighting broke out between Israeli troops and Palestinians across the occupied territories earlier this month, and several Palestinians were killed. After the firebombing of an Israeli car in the Palestinian town of Jericho, the Israeli government banned all Israelis and tourists from Palestinian areas. The ban includes Bethlehem, which depends heavily on tourism. Other developments:
* The State Department had already warned of the possibility of terrorism in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. An announcement effective until Aug. 12 says that although there have been no specific threats against Americans, U.S. citizens in the region should be alert to their surroundings; report suspicious packages or unusual activity to the police; and be careful in crowded areas, at bus stops and on public transit.
* Residents of northern Israel moved into shelters last week as a precaution against rockets launched from southern Lebanon. Some civilians drove southward out of range of guerrilla fire.
* On May 10, two British tourists, both men in their 70s, were stabbed near the U.S. Consulate in West Jerusalem, apparently while trying to prevent two Palestinians from seizing the bag of another visitor. One was reported in critical condition, the other slightly wounded.
Fiji: As an attempted overthrow of the government unfolded, the State Department advised Americans to put off traveling to the tourist-popular island country. At press time Wednesday, a nationwide state of emergency was in effect, although disturbances so far had been confined to the main island. Americans in Fiji were urged to stay indoors and monitor news developments.
Tension between the ethnic Fijian majority and the ethnic Indian minority erupted into violence May 19 when gunmen took over the Parliament building in Suva, the capital, and held the prime minister and other officials of the ethnic Indian-led government as hostages. Fijians rioted in downtown Suva after the takeover, looting and torching Indian shops.
Guatemala: Tourism officials are expressing concern that two recent killings may deter potential visitors to Guatemala. Late last month, a mob attacked and killed a Japanese tourist and a Guatemalan bus driver after rumors that foreigners were coming to steal children swept the highland village of Todos Santos Cuchumatan. The bus carrying 23 Japanese tourists had stopped at the village market near the Mexican border, where tourists often come to buy Mayan textiles, when someone screamed that the visitors were stealing children. A mob of about 500 gathered, the tourist and the bus driver were beaten to death and the driver's body was set afire. The rumor that foreigners kidnap children to sell them or their body parts has persisted for years in some Indian communities. In 1994, an American journalist was severely beaten by angry peasants in the remote village of San Cristobal Verapaz who thought she was trying to steal a baby.
To students who are going abroad this summer, a message from Washington: Have a good time, but be aware of all the ways you can get into trouble in a foreign country. Every year more than 2,500 Americans are arrested abroad, about half on narcotics charges, the State Department notes. Laws may be confusing because a drug that is legal in one country may be illegal in a neighboring country. Young Americans abroad have been killed in auto accidents, drownings and falls because of heavy drinking or drug use. Others have been raped or robbed when they were not careful in unfamiliar locales.
Recent developments relating to travelers' security:
South Africa: Two Danish tourists leaving the Sun City resort in a van were killed in a drive-by shooting last month. Mali: The bodies of three Dutch tourists, who apparently were killed by bandits, were found in a remote area of the Sahara in northern Mali in March. The State Department advises Americans to avoid nonessential road travel in the areas around Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu because of bandits. Burkina Faso: Opposition groups are staging strikes in Ouagadougou, the capital, and some have turned violent. Americans are advised to avoid the university area until Aug. 10.
Briefly . . .
China: Officials in Jiangsu province stepped up security for foreigners last month after a German family was slain in a villa in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, apparently during a botched burglary. . . . Laos: The U.S. Embassy in Vientiane reports that at least three explosions of unknown origin have occurred in public places in the capital at night since March 30, injuring at least nine foreign tourists. Also, the U.S. and Australian governments are warning travelers to avoid some remote areas of central Laos because of attacks by ethnic Hmong insurgents on Laotian government targets. . . . Brazil: Fifty tons of dead fish washed onto Rio de Janeiro's beaches last month, the latest in a series of environmental problems. In January, a Brazilian oil company accidentally dumped 338,000 gallons of fuel oil into Rio's Guanabara Bay. During Carnival in March, tourists' noses alerted them to 100 tons of dead fish in a lagoon behind Ipanema Beach, killed by sewage. And swimming is now forbidden off Copacabana and Ipanema beaches because of the raw sewage pumped daily into the ocean. . . . France: McDonald's is working to improve security at its fast-food sites in France after a bomb, set by suspected Breton nationalists, killed an employee at a McDonald's outlet near Dinan in Brittany last month. . . . Netherlands: Amsterdam police are publishing a safety guide for tourists who come to take advantage of the city's permissive policies on prostitution and drugs. The leaflet warns foreigners to avoid street dealers and to buy hashish and marijuana from city-regulated "coffee shops." Regarding the prostitutes who pose behind the windows of canal houses, the leaflet advises the buyer to beware, adding: "Lots of tourists are taken by surprise when the lady they are visiting turns out to be a gent."
Hot spots: State Department travel warnings are posted for Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, Central African Republic, Colombia, Congo (formerly Zaire), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Yemen.
The U.S. State Department offers recorded travel warnings and advisories at (202) 647-5225; the fax line is (202) 647-3000. Internet address is http://travel.state.gov.