Chinese travellers to Israel put on alert as Donald Trump’s Jerusalem move intensifies tensions

‘Safety conditions’ in Israel are ‘increasingly complicated and intense’, after US president’s recognition of holy city as capital, China’s embassy warns tourists

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 10:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 11:13pm

Chinese tourists travelling to Israel should “stay vigilant” and use caution as US President Donald Trump’s formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and order to move the American embassy to the holy city intensifies tensions in the already conflicted region, China’s embassy in Israel has warned.

“Considering the recent development of affairs, safety conditions in [the] Israel, Palestine areas are increasingly complicated and intense,” the Chinese embassy said on Friday.

“The embassy alerts all Chinese nationals and organisations to stay vigilant, keep watch [as conditions develop] and be cautious when travelling to conflicted areas in Israel and Palestine, including the old city of Jerusalem and its neighbouring areas.”

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The embassy also warned Chinese travellers to be mindful of safety when travelling to the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River, Gaza, the Israel-Lebanon border, the Israel-Syria border and the Golan Heights.

The alert came two days after Trump announced the US would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Israelis and Palestinians have both claimed Jerusalem as their capital.

Violence broke out after the announcement, with Palestinian protesters battling Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem, Ramallah and other places on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang had said on Wednesday that Trump’s move would escalate tensions in the strife-torn region.

Li Guofu, director of Middle East studies at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, said Trump’s decision posed a long-term security threat to Chinese people in the region – but mainly businesspeople and engineers.

“Although the terrorist attacks would not be targeting Chinese, the decision [to move the embassy] has given extremist groups a good reason to cause attacks,” Li said. “And because there is no sense in these attacks, this kind of brutal violence is of high risk to people of all nationalities.”

Li said the greater long-term safety threat would be a concern for China as Beijing tried to extend its reach into the Middle East through its “Belt and Road Initiative” – a massive endeavour to build trade and infrastructure links across Eurasia.

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The initiative would bring more Chinese to the conflicted area, potentially exposing them to even greater danger, Li said.

Chinese companies have been investing in national infrastructure projects in Israel, including construction of a planned mass transit system for the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and a new cargo port at Ashdod on the Mediterranean Sea coast.