Britons jetting off on winter sun holidays to Egypt are being warned about the risk of violence as tensions between the Middle East and the US mount. Just months after flights were given the go-ahead to return to holiday hotspot Sharm el-Sheikh, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued an updated travel warning urging holidaymakers to avoid certain areas in the country.
The updated travel warning comes amid a series of threats between the US and Iran after President Donald Trump launched a targeted attack on an Iranian military leader.
The assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was part of a US strike in Baghdad on 3 January.
Since then an Iranian religious leader has issued a tweet directed at Trump and threatened “severe revenge”.
Following the tweets “World War 3” started trending across Twitter.
As a result, the FCO is advising British nationals in areas close to the affected region to “remain vigilant” and stay up to date on any developments that could see a sudden attack.
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A statement from the FCO reads: “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to the Governorate of North Sinai.
“The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:
• the Governorate of South Sinai, except the area within the Sharm el-Sheikh perimeter barrier, which includes the airport and the areas of Sharm el Maya, Hadaba, Naama Bay, Sharks Bay and Nabq.
• the area west of the Nile Valley and Nile Delta regions, excluding the coastal areas between the Nile Delta and Marsa Matruh (as shown on the map).”
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With Egypt close to the border of at-risk countries, the situation poses a concern for Britons holidaying in the popular winter destination.
The terrorism scale for Egypt is also relatively high at the moment, with an attack “very likely”.
FCO officials warn: “There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria.
“Although most attacks occur in North Sinai, there is a risk of terrorist attacks across the country.
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“Attacks could be indiscriminate, affecting Egyptian security forces, religious sites, large public gatherings and places visited by foreigners.
“Terrorist attacks have occurred over local holiday weekends.
“Terrorists have attacked tourists in Egypt in the past.
“There is a heightened threat of terrorist attacks targeting Coptic Christians from extremists linked to Daesh-Sinai in Egypt.
“You should follow the advice of Egyptian authorities, remaining particularly vigilant and maintaining a high level of security awareness in crowded places and at large gatherings.”
The news comes just weeks after the UK government decided it was safe for British tourists to return to Sharm el-Sheikh.
An inaugural flight took off on 19 December, relaunching vacations to the popular destination.
Government officials made the decision to ban all travel to the city in 2015 following a fatal terrorist attack which targeted a flight filled with tourists from the region to Russia.
The fatal attack killed 224 passengers on a flight to St. Petersburg and is considered Russia’s worst aviation disaster.
Following the incident the British government suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheik, deeming the area unsafe and advising travellers against visiting.
After working closely with the Egyptian government on security precautions, restrictions have since been lifted.
Sharm el-Sheikh is still considered to be largely safe for British tourist, even amid the current crisis.
In a statement in October, the FCO said: “Restrictions on flights between Sharm el-Sheikh Airport and the UK have been lifted.
“Improvements in security procedures at the airport, and close co-operation between the UK and Egypt on aviation security, mean commercial airlines can now be allowed to operate routes to and from the airport.
“This is the first step in the resumption of flights to Sharm El-Sheikh, which is a popular destination for UK holidaymakers. This decision supports air carriers to provide more choice to travellers hoping to visit the country.”
However, as the threat of war is on the rise, experts are warning travellers they should remain in the know about current developments which could affect their holiday.