British holidaymakers at Red Sea resorts have been confined to their hotels as Egypt lurches closer to civil war.

More than 40,000 UK tourists are in the strife-torn country, most of them at popular beach destinations such as Sharm El Sheikh.

But as the official death toll from Wednesday’s massacre in Cairo passed 500, the Foreign Office upgraded its travel warning to say that local police have advised tourists to remain within their hotel grounds.

A 24-hour curfew was issued on Wednesday between 7pm and 6am in Sharm el Sheikh and people in Hurghada was also told to stay in their hotels.

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Bloodbath: Smoke rises as a tent burns at one of the two sites of the sit-in by the Egyptians supporting ousted president Mohamed Morsi at Nahda square near Cairo University on Wednesday

Bloodbath: Smoke rises as a tent burns at one of the two sites of the sit-in by the Egyptians supporting ousted president Mohamed Morsi at Nahda square near Cairo University on Wednesday

 
Wreckage: Soldiers clear debris as people sift through it the day after Egyptian security forces clear two encampments of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo's Nasr City

Wreckage: Soldiers clear debris as people sift through it the day after Egyptian security forces clear two encampments of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo’s Nasr City

 
Response: Egyptian soldiers move near a burnt annex building of Rabaa Adawiya mosque after the clearing of a protest camp around the mosque

Response: Egyptian soldiers move near a burnt annex building of Rabaa Adawiya mosque after the clearing of a protest camp around the mosque

After this was lifted yesterday morning, the Foreign Office issued this advice today: ‘In Hurghada on August 14 there were some violent clashes, in an area away from tourist resorts. One man was killed.

‘Hurghada police advised tourists to remain in hotel grounds. We advise you to follow their advice. You are strongly advised to avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings.

‘If you become aware of any nearby protests, leave the area immediately. Do not attempt to cross road blocks erected by the security forces or protesters.’

The FCO has also advised against all but essential travel to Egypt, except for the Red Sea resorts. It said that enhanced security measures were in place to protect the resort areas.

Although the resorts are hundreds of miles from the capital, diving trips and excursions have been halted temporarily amid fears that bloody clashes between security forces and supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood will spread.

 

Eerie: Egyptians walk among the burned remains of the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, in the centre of the largest protest camp of supporters of ousted President Morsi, that was cleared by security forces

Eerie: Egyptians walk among the burned remains of the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, in the centre of the largest protest camp of supporters of ousted President Morsi, that was cleared by security forces

 

Tears: Egyptians mourn over the bodies of their relatives in the El-Iman mosque in Nasr City, Cairo

Tears: Egyptians mourn over the bodies of their relatives in the El-Iman mosque in Nasr City, Cai

The violence continued yesterday as hundreds of Brotherhood members set fire to a government building near Cairo.

President Barack Obama cancelled US joint military exercises with Egypt and strongly condemned Wednesday’s massacre, when the military regime’s troops opened fire on two camps of Muslim Brotherhood protesters.

Mr Obama warned that Egypt had entered a ‘more dangerous path’ but stopped short of suspending $1.3billion in annual US military aid.

‘To the Egyptian people, let me say: the cycle of violence and escalation needs to stop’

U.S. President Barack Obama

‘Our traditional co-operation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back,’ he said.

‘The Egyptian people deserve better than what we’ve seen over the last several days. And to the Egyptian people, let me say: the cycle of violence and escalation needs to stop.’

Britain summoned the Egyptian ambassador to express its ‘deep concern’. The violence in Cairo has triggered a state of emergency and a curfew in several cities.

The Foreign Office says travel advice for Red Sea resorts is unchanged but local authorities in Sharm El Sheikh have temporarily stopped tourist excursions.

‘In Hurghada the police have advised tourists to remain within hotel grounds,’ it adds.

‘We advise British tourists to follow the regulations set by the local authorities and to obey curfews. British tourists should also ensure they keep valid identification with them at all times.’

‘British tourists should ensure they keep valid identification with them at all times’

Foreign Office

UK tour operators Thomson and First Choice have 11,769 British holidaymakers in Egypt, many of them in Sharm el Sheikh.

A spokesman for the two companies said: ‘We are working with the FCO and monitoring the situation closely in Egypt.

‘The majority of our customers are in Sharm el Sheikh which is a considerable distance – indeed, an eight-hour drive – from Cairo. There have been no related incidents in Sharm el Sheikh or any of the other popular Red Sea tourist areas.

‘Like much of Egypt, Sharm el Sheikh was subject to an evening curfew until 6am yesterday morning. This has now been lifted and all our excursions in the Red Sea resorts will resume from today.’

Abroad: More than 40,000 UK tourists are in the strife-torn country, most of them at popular beach destinations such as Sharm El Sheikh (file picture)

Thomas Cook said the Red Sea resorts were ‘operating as normal, bar an evening curfew in Sharm El Sheikh that was observed on August 14.

‘The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is now advising against all but essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Suez’

Thomson spokesman

‘Our experienced teams on the ground have confirmed that no tourist areas have been further impacted and that our customers continue to enjoy these popular Red Sea resorts.’

The firm added that it has cancelled excursions from the resorts to Cairo, Luxor, Moses Mountain and St Catherine’s Monastery but ‘some excursions for UK customers will be operating again as of August 16 within the perimeter of Sharm El Sheikh.

These include boat and diving excursions, quads and city tours.’

The violence has left Egypt facing another sharp fall in tourism, which has already suffered a severe decline since the 2011 revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

ABTA, which represents British estate agents, said: ‘ABTA and our members continue to monitor the situation in Egypt and follow advice from the Foreign Office which states that  the Red Sea resorts have not been affected by the recent demonstrations and remain safe to travel to.

‘As a sensible precaution the Egyptian authorities declared a curfew in Sharm El Sheik between the hours of 7pm and 6am on 14 August, this has subsequently been lifted.’

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