Malaysia stopping citizens from flying to Israel, Palestine due to IS threat

(Photo: REUTERS / Yuya Shino)People in Tokyo holding placards take part in a vigil for Japanese hostages Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, who were killed by Islamic State militants, in Tokyo February 8, 2015. Islamic State militants beheaded journalist Goto last month, a week after the group released footage appearing to show the beheaded body of another Japanese hostage, Yukawa.

The Malaysian government is stopping its citizens from traveling to Israel and the Palestinian territories due to growing security concerns in the region following threats to tourists.

Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the ministry decided to freeze all applications by its citizens to travel to the region because of the "unpredictable situation" in the area.

"We are concerned about all threats to security there," he told The Malaysian Insider.

"We decided to freeze travel to Israel and Jerusalem for the sake of the safety of Malaysians who want to go there. This is because of the war and the unpredictable situation there that could jeopardize the safety of travelers."

The travel ban came after two disturbing incidents perpetrated by Islamic State militants sent shockwaves around the world.

Earlier in the week, jihadists in Libya released a video showing some of its members beheading 21 Egyptian Christians who were kidnapped in January and incident that evoked global outrage.

In early February, the extremists, who claim to represent Islam, beheaded a Japanese journalist covering the plight of refugees, and burnt a Jordanian pilot alive. Both executions were filmed and posted online.

In retaliation over the deaths of its citizens, Jordan and Egypt carried out bombing runs at identified IS strongholds.

At the same time some Japanese officials have clamored for revisions in their pacifist constitution to be able to respond to such attacks on their citizens.

Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi disclosed last week that he received intelligence reports that revealed plans of the militant group to kidnap wealthy Malaysian.

He did not mention whether the report had been verified.

While the Malaysian government has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel, Kuala Lumpur has allowed Christian pilgrims to visit Israel, given its reputation as a holy site for different faiths such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

Prior to 2010, Malaysian Christians were free to travel to Israel and Palestine territories until fighting between the two sides resumed after a ceasefire.

The Malaysian Home Ministry imposed a quota on the pilgrimages, as well as other kinds of restrictions, in light of the conflict there.

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