August 8, 2010 / 10:32 AM / 8 years ago

U.S. travel warning gets it wrong, says Israel

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A warning to U.S. citizens that they should know where the nearest bomb shelter if they travel to the Red Sea resort Eilat has irked Israel’s government, which says the alert should apply to next door Aqaba, in Jordan.

Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov was expected to raise the U.S. State Department’s August 5 travel warning with U.S. ambassador James Cunningham this week, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Sunday.

The warning at www.travel.state.gov/travel says “rockets have been fired recently into the Eilat and Aqaba areas. U.S. citizens in Eilat and southern Israel are advised to ascertain the location of the nearest bomb shelter.”

There is no equivalent warning for Jordan, where one taxi driver was killed and three other people injured last Monday by a rocket which exploded outside a five-star international beach hotel in Aqaba, just across the gulf from Eilat.

There was no travel advisory either for Egypt’s Sinai, where Israel says the salvo of short-range rockets came from. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they were fired “without a doubt” by Islamist militants of the Hamas movement which rules the Gaza Strip to the north.

Israel believes the rockets were aimed at Eilat, a favourite seaside getaway, but overshot and hit the Jordanian beachfront. Egyptian security sources said they also suspect Gaza militants, but Hamas denied the charge.

The newspaper said “Israeli officials voiced their displeasure ... that the travel advisory to Jordan had not been similarly escalated despite the fact that the Grad rockets landed in Aqaba and killed a Jordanian citizen.”

“Drawing a distinction between Israel and its neighbour was inappropriate,” said Tourism Ministry official, who accused State Department of “discriminatory” behaviour.

Eilat and Aqaba lie at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba, in the Red Sea. Israel and Jordan made peace in 1994. Travel between the resorts involves few formalities and a 40 minute taxi ride.

In a separate report, an Israeli website quoted the London-based Arabic daily as saying Egyptian security forces had arrested three Palestinians suspected of planning a simultaneous attack in Egypt’s Red Sea resort, Sharm el-Sheikh.

The newspaper said a large quantity of bomb-making equipment was discovered in a car for an explosion investigators believe was supposed to have been carried out simultaneously with the rocket fire at Eilat and Aqaba.

The three men in custody are all of Palestinian extraction, the website quoted the newspaper as reporting.

Writing by Douglas Hamilton; Editing by Jon Hemming

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