Sinai desert
Photo: Reuters
Tourists in Dahab
Photo: AP

Egypt pursues terrorists in Sinai

Counter-Terrorism Bureau calls on all Israeli tourists in Sinai to immediately return to Israel. Egyptian state and military forces pursue two Palestinians believed to be planning suicide attacks against Israeli, other tourists vacationing in southern Sinai

Hundreds of state-security forces and military intelligence personnel launched a search Thursday looking for two Palestinians believed to be plotting suicide attacks in Egypt's northern Sinai peninsula, officials said.


Meanwhile, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau called on all Israeli tourists in Sinai to immediately return to Israel.


The search began day after 23 Palestinians and Egyptians were arrested and confessed to plotting a series of attacks against tourists, mainly Israelis in southern Sinai resorts.


Among those arrested was a young Palestinian, wearing an explosives belt, who had entered Egypt illegally at Rafah through an underground tunnel from the Gaza Strip.


Officials at the Taba Terminal estimated that there were currently 500 Israelis in Sinai. The past few months have seen a sharp drop in the number of Israelis visiting the peninsula, following warnings on terrorists' activities in the area.


The Counter-Terrorism Bureau warned that the threat to kidnap Israelis and hurt them in Sinai was extremely severe. The bureau recommended that all Israelis leave the area immediately.


"The safety of Israeli tourists visiting or staying in Egypt has been severely threatened in for a long time now," an updated statement issued by the Bureau read.


Hundreds of state security forces and intelligence were deployed to Rafah, El-Arish and several other northern Sinai towns in search of two additional Palestinians, believed to be suicide bombers, according to an anonymous state security official.


Another intelligence official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the two are carrying belts of explosives and that they are plotting an attack in the southern Sinai. The two are believed to have rented cars to head south, the intelligence official added.


Egypt has suffered a string of suicide terror attacks in recent years at Sinai tourist resorts. Egypt, Israel and the Palestinians have debated how best to control the border with Gaza, to prevent smuggling of weapons into Gaza and the infiltration of extremists into Egypt.


'There are terror attacks in Jerusalem as well'

Meital Ochana, 24, a student from Jerusalem, arrived at the Taba Terminal in order to pass to Sinai.


"I have not been in Sinai for two years, and this morning I decided to go after hearing that several of my friends left for the area yesterday. When I asked officials at the terminal about the situation, they told me that it was not recommended to go through because of severe warnings, but no one tried to stop me. I am trying to call my friends to see what the situation is like and then I will decide whether to go through or not.


"Two years ago I went through without thinking twice, and if you asked me, I would say that there are terror attacks in Jerusalem as well, so we have to continue living. But the recent incidents in Taba have affected my decisions and I will not go through until I hear from my friends and know what is going on there."


Three Israelis were killed less than a month ago in a terror attack in Eilat. The suicide bomber blew himself up at a bakery in the southern city. He arrived from the Gaza Strip by crossing the border with Egypt.


Lilach Shoval contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 02.22.07, 17:03
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