Shafaq News/ The United States said Sunday it had ordered non-emergency staff and eligible family members to leave its embassy in Baghdad and its consulate in Arbil, Iraq.
The directive, which was announced Sunday but issued Friday, was given “due to increased security threats against US personnel and interests,” the State Department said.
The department also updated its travel advisory to a level four, the highest possible, warning US citizens not to travel to Iraq.
The travel advisory says, “Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict, civil unrest, and Mission Iraq’s limited capacity to provide support to US citizens.”
There has been a spike in attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria since the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza broke out. Last week, a US warship shot down more than a dozen drones and four cruise missiles fired by Iranian-backed Houthis from Yemen.
Washington is on heightened alert for activity by Iran-backed groups as regional tensions soar during the Israel-Hamas war, which began after Palestinian group Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing over 1,400 people.
Israel has since retaliated with deadly airstrikes on Gaza, a 45 km-long (25-mile) strip of land that is part of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories and home to 2.3 million people that has been ruled politically since 2006 by Hamas. Israel’s air strikes have killed over 4,700 people, Palestinian officials say.
“Because of security concerns, US government personnel in Baghdad are instructed not to use Baghdad International Airport,” the State Department said on Sunday.
The United States has sent a significant amount of naval power to the Middle East in recent weeks, including two aircraft carriers, their support ships and about 2,000 Marines.
The US will send a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and additional Patriot air defense missile system battalions to the Middle East, the Pentagon said on Saturday.