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"Credible' threat closes U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv

The U.S. ambassador to Israel on Thursday ordered the embassy in Tel Aviv closed temporarily after receiving a "direct, credible" threat against the facility, a spokesman said.

Embassy spokesman Larry Schwartz would not elaborate on specifics of the threat but said the closure was in line with other actions by the U.S. government in recent weeks to protect diplomatic missions amid "heightened regional tensions," including the latest U.S. military confrontation with Iraq.

Ambassador Edward Walker ordered the embassy's approximately 200 employees to stay home from work Thursday after the threat was received Wednesday evening, Schwartz said. "The ambassador thought it was prudent to close the embassy today while we discussed the matter with the appropriate authorities," the spokesman said.

Schwartz and other U.S. officials would not comment on reports that an anonymous caller had warned of an imminent bombing.

But U.S. officials said they expect the shutdown to be brief, with employees likely to report for work Monday. The embassy already was scheduled to be closed today for the New Year holiday, Schwartz noted, and most employees also would have been allowed to leave early Thursday for New Year's Eve.

Earlier this month, the State Department ordered 40 embassies in Africa temporarily shut, citing the possibility of violent reactions to the U.S. conflict with Iraq. U.S. diplomatic missions around the world have been on alert since the bombings in August of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.