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May 17, 2021
17-May-2021

AMERICAS

Colombia (Security threat level – 4): On 16 May 2021, demonstrators in Colombia continued to protest economic inequality and several other grievances in multiple cities. In the small industrial city of Yumbo – located approximately 10 km (5 mi) north of central Cali — police officers and other security personnel deployed tear gas to disperse protesters who had erected barricades near the mayor’s house. At least four people were injured during the unrest. Earlier in the day, thousands of people gathered around the Monument to Heroes memorial in the capital Bogotá. Local media reports suggest that although the protests were largely peaceful, the large number of demonstrators overwhelmed the city’s mass transit system, which subsequently shut down for the day. Protests were also reported in the town of La Plata, located in the Huila department. President Iván Duque is currently in negotiations with the National Strike Committee in an attempt to end the nationwide protests.

ASIA

India (Security threat level – 3): As of 17 May 2021, several states have imposed or extended coronavirus-related lockdowns as the country continues to experience hundreds of thousands of new cases each day.

On 16 May the chief minister of Punjab extended the state’s existing lockdown until 31 May. Under the order, a curfew is in effect from 1800-0500 local time (1230-2330 UTC), with a full weekend lockdown extending from 1800 local time on Fridays until 0500 local time on Mondays. Nonessential businesses are closed, government offices and banks are staffed at 50% of normal capacity, gatherings of more than 10 people are banned, and private vehicles and taxis are limited to two occupants at maximum.

On 15 May, authorities in the northeastern state of Assam announced that a statewide curfew will be in effect from 1200-0500 local time (0630-2330 UTC) each day from 0500 local time on 16 May until further notice. Businesses will be required to close at 1100 local time. During curfew hours there is a total ban on movement of individuals. Outside of curfew hours the movement of private vehicles will be allowed based on an odd-even formula with vehicles that have odd registration numbers allowed on odd days and vehicles with even registration numbers allowed to move on even days. In rural areas the curfew will continue to commence at 1800 local time. Personal vehicles used for emergencies will be exempt from movement restrictions.

Also on 15 May, the government of West Bengal state — on the east Indian border of Bangladesh and Bhutan — announced a complete lockdown across the state from 0600 local time (0030 UTC) on 16 May to 1800 local time (1230 UTC) on 30 May. Government and private offices will be closed, and public transportation will be suspended for the duration of the lockdown. All businesses, excluding essential services, will also be closed. Marketplaces and essential food services will be allowed to remain open from 0700 (0130 UTC) to 1000 (0430 UTC).

India (Security threat level – 3): As of 1430 local time (0900 UTC) on 17 May 2021, Tropical Cyclone Tauktae was located approximately 160 km (100 mi) west of Mumbai, and was moving north-northwest at 17 kph (10 mph), according to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center. At that time, Tauktae was generating maximum sustained winds of 213 kph, with gusts of up to 260 kph. On its current forecast path, the storm is expected to make landfall in southern Gujarat state overnight during 17-18 May. Approximately 150,000 residents of Gujarat have been evacuated, and most seaports and airports in the state have suspended operations. Tauktae has already killed at least 12 people as it passed along the country’s western coast, and damage was reported in parts of Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra states. In Mumbai, authorities closed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (VABB/BOM) and suspended operations during 1100-1600 local time on 17 May due to adverse effects of the storm, while Dabolim Airport (VOGO/GOI) was closed throughout 16 May.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Palestinian Territories / Israel (Security threat levels – 4 / 4): As of 17 May 2021, the Israeli military and various factions in Gaza are continuing to clash, with militants in Gaza firing rockets toward Israeli cities, and Israel responding with airstrikes on militant targets in Gaza. At approximately 1340 local time (1040 UTC) a rocket fired by Palestinian militants hit an apartment building in the city of Ashdod, injuring eight Israeli civilians and trapping at least one person under the rubble. Similar rocket attacks occurred on 15 and 16 May, targeting Be’er Sheva, Ashdod, Netivot and Ashkelon. Palestinian militant groups have launched at least 3,000 rockets since the start of the conflict on 10 May and killed 10 Israeli civilians. Meanwhile, Israeli forces confirmed two significant airstrikes against Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) targets in the Gaza Strip. The strike on Hamas targeted the organization’s maritime wing, and foiled an attack using a drone boat that would have targeted Israeli naval vessels off the Gazan coast. Meanwhile, the strike in Gaza’s Khan Younis neighborhood against PIJ killed a top commander. A spokesperson for the Israeli military stated that the Israeli air force has conducted 1,080 airstrikes against militant groups in the Gaza Strip since fighting began on 10 May. Health officials in the Gaza Strip report that at least 188 people have been killed in Israeli strikes so far, including at least 55 children.

Meanwhile, unrest continues across Israel and the Palestinian Territories. On 17 May Israeli authorities arrested five Arab Israelis suspected of an attempted lynching of Jewish motorists near the town of Lakiya. Israeli authorities denied access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for non-Muslims on 16 May amid rumors of Jewish right-wing activists entering the compound in an attempt to carry out unspecified illegal activities. In the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, a car rammed a group of Israeli police officers. Seven officers were injured and the driver – a Palestinian man – was shot. Fighting occurred between Palestinians and Israeli security personnel in Beit El – located approximately 5 km (3 mi) north-northeast of Ramallah — in the West Bank. Clashes also occurred between IDF soldiers and Palestinians near Ramallah. Organized Jewish groups continue to carry out attacks in places such as Lod, located approximately 16 km southeast of Tel Aviv. Scattered violence is occurring across the country as there continue to be reports of isolated clashes between Arab and Jewish residents. Demonstrators also rallied at the Israeli borders with Jordan and Lebanon on 15 May. Buses transported people in Lebanon to the Israeli border at Metula to protest Israeli actions against Palestinians. Demonstrators also rallied again near the King Hussein Bridge in Jordan (the Allenby Bridge in Israel) near the border crossing into the West Bank. IDF sources reported that they prevented a group of individuals from infiltrating Israel via the Lebanese border at Metula overnight with gunfire, and that they later found items believed to be bombs near the attempted incursion site.

On 15 May, officials with Etihad Airways and flydubai air carriers canceled flights to Israel effective 16 May due to the ongoing rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. Several American and European air carriers previously canceled flights to Israel. In related news, officials at Ben Gurion Airport (LLBG/TLV) in Tel Aviv diverted all inbound flights to Ramon Airport (LLER/ETM) – located approximately 20 km north of Eilat — during 15-16 May. Reports indicate that inbound flights into the facility have resumed as of 17 May, but travelers should check with their airline regarding flight cancellations and plan for possible diversions.

In response to the escalating violence, the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on 14 May issued updated travel advice for Israel, which reads in part as follows: “The FCDO advises against all travel to: Gaza, the Sheba’a Farms and Ghajjar, within 500m of the border with Lebanon (the ‘Blue Line’) east of Metula, including the northern edge of the town and east of Route 98 along the Syrian border…The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to the remainder of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories based on the current assessment of security and COVID-19 risks.”

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Israel / Palestinian Territories (Security threat levels – 4 / 4): On 14 May 2021, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) issued a Maritime Alert, which reads in part as follows: “Multiple maritime incidents have been reported in the vicinity of the Israeli ports of Ashdod and Ashkelon on May 11-12, 2021. The nature of these incidents is reported to be rocket strikes, which landed in and near these ports. Exercise caution when transiting or operating in or near Israeli ports and territorial waters. This Alert will automatically expire on May 21, 2021. Any maritime industry questions regarding this alert should be directed to [email protected].”

Liberia (Security threat level – 4): On 15 May 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia issued a Health Alert, which reads in part as follows: “The U.S. Embassy received reports that the Liberian Ministry of Health updated its protocols for incoming travelers at Roberts International Airport:

  • In addition to being tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, all travelers must now present a negative PCR COVID-19 test result upon arrival, regardless of vaccination status. For the complete travel protocol, view the Ministry of Health’s Travel Advisory.
  • All travelers arriving from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Brazil will be transported to an approved facility directly from the airport and required to undergo mandatory precautionary observation at their own expense. Refer to the Ministry of Health’s “Observations of Persons Traveling from High Risk Areas” document. For information about vaccine availability in Liberia, refer to the U.S. Embassy website.”

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