Travel Warnings Issued for Egypt; U.S. Citizens Urged to Leave

cairoThis week, violent clashes between protestors and the military in Egypt have caused the deaths of an estimated 600 people and injured at least 4,000 more. The Egyptian government declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, implementing a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. in select governates, including Cairo and Alexandria. By Thursday, after the worst day of violence since two Egyptian presidents were deposed in as many years, the country's government defended its actions, insisting its troops fired in self-defense and were not responsible for many of the deaths, as CNN reported.

The violence spread beyond public squares and government buildings: According to another CNN report, 52 churches were attacked in a 24-hour span. Prince Tadros Church in Fayoum, southwest of Cairo, was stormed and burned Thursday night.

Resorts along the Red Sea, which generally attract European travelers, are currently relatively safe, eTurboNews is reporting. Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised against all travel to the Governorate of North Sinai and all but essential travel to the rest of Egypt, but specifically excluded: "resorts on the Red Sea in South Sinai and those resorts on the Egyptian mainland in Red Sea Governorate."

The article claims that travel is safe in:

(i) the Red Sea Resorts including those in the entire region of Sharm el Sheikh, Taba, Nuweiba and Dahab;

(ii) the St. Catherine's Monastery World Heritage Site;

(iii) road travel between the Red Sea resorts;

(iv) road travel from the Red Sea resorts to St Catherine's Monastery approaching from the east;

(v) transfers between the resorts and the airports of Taba and Sharm el Sheikh.

The U.S. Department of State, conversely, issued a stern travel warning for the country, encouraging U.S. citizens to defer travel to Egypt and U.S. citizens living in Egypt to depart at this time. The U.S. Embassy urged U.S. citizens who choose to remain in Egypt to comply with local regulations and follow local media for updates.

"Political unrest, which intensified prior to the constitutional referendum in December 2012, the anniversary in 2013 of Egypt's 25th January Revolution, and the July 2013 change of government, shows little sign of abating. Demonstrations have, on numerous occasions, degenerated into violent clashes between security forces and protesters, and between protesters supporting different factions, resulting in deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage. Participants have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and security forces have used tear gas and other crowd control measures against demonstrators. There have been instances of the use of firearms as well. While most violent protests have occurred in major metropolitan areas, including downtown Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, and Port Said, there are recent reports of more widespread political and social violence, including armed attacks, in other areas of Egypt. Of continued concern is gender-based violence in and around protest areas where women have been the targets of sexual assault.

"The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all demonstrations in Egypt, as even peaceful ones can quickly become violent, and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse. On June 28, a U.S. citizen was killed during a demonstration in Alexandria. Because of the proximity of the U.S. Embassy to Tahrir Square in Cairo, the U.S. Embassy has sometimes been closed to the public on short notice due to violent protests. The Embassy will notify U.S. citizens as quickly as possible of any closing and the types of emergency consular services that will be available. Should security forces block off the area around the U.S. Embassy during demonstrations, U.S. citizens should contact the American Citizens Services section before attempting to come to the U.S. Embassy during that time. U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to carry identification and, if moving about alone, a cell phone or other means of communication that works in Egypt."

In encouraging U.S. citizens to leave Egypt, the State Department noted that commercial flights are operating, but noted that cancellations may occur. "Travelers should check with their airlines prior to their planned travel to verify the flight schedule. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-sponsored evacuations. U.S. citizens seeking to depart Egypt are responsible for making their own travel arrangements."

Mohamed Hegazy, Director of the Egyptian Tourist Authority in New York, released a statement that occupants in Rabaa and Nahda are "at present being dispersed by security forces." The Ministry is following all services rendered to tourists in all Egyptian cities, he continued, emphasizing that all airports are open and all flights are all normal schedules. "Tourists Itineraries is processed despite all the issues of the current political situation," Hegazy said in the statement. "The Egyptian Tourist Authority is recommending all Egypt's guests that they have to follow the guidance of their I ocal licensed Travel agents in Egypt. "Also, its highly recommended that all tourists stay away from any demonstration points."

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