'Don't travel to Israel, Iran': India amid escalating tensions between both countries

Iranians burn an Israeli flag during a rally marking Quds Day and the funeral of members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who were killed in a suspected Israeli airstrike on the Iranian embassy complex in the Syrian capital Damascus, in Tehran, Iran, April 5, 2024. Photo: Majid Asgaripour/West Asia News Agency/Reuters

New Delhi: India on Friday asked its citizens not to travel to Iran and Israel amid increasing fears that Tehran may launch an attack on Israeli soil in retaliation to a strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria 11 days ago.

People familiar with the latest developments said no more Indians will be allowed to go to Israel to work in the construction sector. The first batch of 64 Indian workers had left for Israel earlier this month and over 6,000 construction workers from India were to leave for Israel in April and May.

There have been mounting tensions in West Asia following the attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus. Iran blamed Israel for the strike and there have been media reports from Tel Aviv that the Israeli forces are preparing for any eventualities.

In an advisory, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) also urged the Indians residing in Iran and Israel to exercise utmost precautions about their safety and restrict their movements to a minimum.

"Given the prevailing situation in the region, all Indians are advised not to travel to Iran or Israel till further notice," it said. "All those who are currently residing in Iran or Israel are requested to get in touch with Indian Embassies there and register themselves," the MEA said. "They are also requested to observe utmost precautions about their safety and restrict their movements to the minimum," it added.

At present, around 4,000 Indians are residing in Iran while the number in Israel is nearly 18,500, according to official estimates. It is learnt that New Delhi is looking at various contingencies including possible evacuation of the Indians from the two countries if the overall situation deteriorates.

Israel has been on high alert following threats from Iran as well as intelligence reports suggesting that Tehran was preparing to attack targets in Israel to avenge the April 1 attack on its consulate in Damascus.

Following the Israel-Hamas conflict, some media reports said the Israeli construction industry is looking at recruiting 100,000 Indian workers to replace the 90,000 Palestinians As per the plan, over 6,000 construction workers from India were to be brought to Israel in April and May.

They will be brought to Israel on an "air shuttle" following a joint decision by the Israeli Prime Minister's Office (PMO), Finance Ministry and the Construction and Housing Ministry on subsidising charter flights, a statement issued by the Israeli government late Wednesday said.

Last week, India expressed concern over the deadly attack on Iranian diplomatic premises in the Syrian capital Damascus and said it is distressed at the escalating tensions in West Asia and their potential to fuel further instability.

Iranian media reported that seven Revolutionary Guards personnel, including two generals, were killed in the attack. Israel has been continuing its military offensive in Gaza as part of its retaliation to the unprecedented attack on Israeli cities by Hamas on October 7.

Hamas killed around 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped more than 220 others some of whom were released during a brief ceasefire. Over 33,000 people have been killed in Gaza in the Israeli offensive, according to the Hamas-run authorities.

India has been calling for de-escalation of the situation and creating conditions for an early resumption of direct peace negotiations towards a two-state solution to the Palestine issue.

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