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State Department Warns Travelers to Avoid Parts of Middle East

Aired October 20, 2000 - 1:10 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The State Department warns travelers to stay away from many parts of the Middle East, including Israel.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Some people say that warning might not be necessary. But even for the cautious, there are some things to know.

CNN's Jim Morelli looks at some questions travelers might have.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM MORELLI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Travelers might wonder whether it's safe to visit Israel. The State Department says it may not be. It's recommending U.S. citizens defer all travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. One travel expert agrees.

RICHARD COPLAND, AMER. SOC. OF TRAVEL AGENTS: I would have to say as a responsible travel agent that you should curtail your travel plans to the Middle East at this time.

SHEILA MILLER: The rock-throwing is dangerous.

MORELLI: Sheila Miller of New York recently postponed her trip to Israel.

MILLER: I have no desire to give up my life, not at this point. There's too much else to live for.

MORELLI (on camera): But Israel tourism officials say the danger is being overstated. They say the situation in the country is, quote, "calm and normal." One U.S. tour operator agrees.

RENEE WERBIN, SAI TRAVEL: I've had people at the wall, I've had people at the wall, I've had people in Tiberius, down at the Dead Sea. All the tourist sites are open and readily available. And there have been no signs whatsoever of violence in the tourist areas.

MORELLI: If you still prefer to postpone or cancel a trip, it might cost you. While three airlines fly nonstop from New York to Tel Aviv, only Continental and El-Al are offering full refunds for the moment, even on nonrefundable tickets. TWA says it will consider refunds on a case-by-case basis, though it has waived change fees for Tel Aviv-bound flights.

What about trip cancellation insurance? Would that help? Probably not.

WERBIN: Most insurance companies do not insure for acts of war. So, generally, if you bought trip cancellation insurance, it's not going to be applicable in this circumstance.

MORELLI: In the end, if you do decide to visit Israel, Werbin says make sure you only do so with a licensed guide.

Jim Morelli, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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