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Czech Republic New Protecting Power For U S In Syria, Americans Urged To Leave

On Wednesday, the United States renewed its warning to U.S. citizens against travel to Syria, and strongly recommended that those remaining in Syria depart immediately.

In a Travel Warning update issued on Wednesday, the US State Department said "Effective immediately, the Government of the Czech Republic serves as the protecting power for U.S. interests in Syria."

The United States had suspended all embassy operations in Syria on February 6 in the wake of violence and a deteriorating security situation. All official U.S. embassy personnel and their family members have departed the country.

The Polish government, acting through its U.S. Interests Section in Damascus, has been serving as the protecting power for U.S. interests in Syria since then. But on July 27, the State Department said all official Polish Embassy personnel have departed Syria, and that the U.S. Interests Section operated by the Polish Protecting Power has been closed.

Under the new arrangement, the Czech embassy in Damascus will have the responsibility to assist U.S. citizens in Syria and oversee its property.

U.S. citizens in Syria who are in need of emergency assistance have been advised to call 0969-333644 within Syria. Callers outside Syria should dial +963-969-333644. Callers in the United States and Canada can dial the toll free number 1-888-407-4747. Callers outside the United States and Canada can dial 1-202-501-4444. Inquiries regarding U.S. citizens in Syria should be directed to SyriaEmergencyUSC@state.gov.

The State Department urged those U.S. citizens who decide to remain in Syria despite this Travel Warning to provide their current contact information and next-of-kin information through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at www.travel.state.gov.

As the United Nations prepares to deliver food relief to people in the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo, the UN observer mission in the country renewed its call for the Government and the opposition to refrain from further violence after reports of an increase in fighting and the use of heavy weaponry in the city over the past 72 hours.

"Our observers are reporting exchange of fire, shelling and explosions in addition to use of helicopters, tanks, heavy machine guns and artillery shelling," said the spokesperson for the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), Sausan Ghosheh, adding that observers also saw firing from a fighter jet.

Ghosheh said the violence occurred in the southeastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, around the Salah Eddin area, with the Mission's observers confirming that opposition forces are also in possession of heavy weapons, including tanks.

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