US urges citizens to leave Gaza 'as soon as possible'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner (File photo)

The United States has urged its citizens staying in Gaza to leave the coastal enclave “as soon as possible” over the Israeli bombardments of the area.

The warning came after the Israeli military Sunday pounded targets in the Gaza Strip and injured four, including two in the town of Beit Hanun.

The State Department warned Tuesday against "all travel" to the Gaza Strip and "urges those present to depart as soon as possible when border crossings are open."

"The security environment within Gaza and on its borders is dangerous and volatile," the department added.

It also said that Americans have been killed or wounded in the Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 2015.

However, it added that "there is no indication that US citizens were specifically targeted based on nationality."

A Palestinian man loads stones on a cart next to a crater on August 22, 2016 in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, following an Israeli airstrike. (AFP photo)

The Israeli military frequently bombs Gaza. The disproportionate force is always used in violation of international law and civilians are often killed or injured.

The State Department also warned Israel against expanding its settlements in the occupied Palestine that has created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East. 

“That would represent a deeply concerning step of settlement expansion on land that is at least partially owned by Palestinians," department spokesman Mark Toner said at a press briefing.

"We strongly oppose all settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace. And we've said repeatedly such moves are not consistent with Israel's stated desire to achieve a two-state solution," Toner added.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds.

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