Sinai beach (Archive)
Photo: Guy Tsabary

Security official: Abduction rumors unconfirmed

Unusual terror warning issued Tuesday meant to urge Israelis to locate their relatives in Sinai, Head of Counter-Terrorism Bureau says; for time being, no confirmation of abduction despite rumors, but new intelligence shows terror cell ready for action

The unusual travel advisory urging Israelis to leave Sinai immediately was aimed at prompting citizens to locate and account for their relatives currently in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau's chief told Ynet Tuesday evening.


Referring to rumors in Israel that an abduction had already taken place, Brigadier General (Res.) Yehuda Nuriel said Israel had no such information.


"We do not have concrete information about an abduction," he said. "There were rumors we weren't able to confirm through intelligence information."


However, he said, the fear that an abduction had taken place had not been cleared yet.


"Our obstacle is that we're dealing with a wide area…it's possible that if they abducted someone they escaped in the direction of the mountains, where there are communication problems," he said. "At this time we do not have accurate intelligence information that confirms such rumors. This prompted the anti-terror bureau's announcement that urged families to check with their loved ones in Sinai, to ensure all is well."


Nuriel added that Israel believes that whatever organization is behind the latest abduction warning, it is being operated by Hamas, adding that an abducted Israeli may end up being transferred to Gaza via Rafah's tunnels.


Misleading calm in Sinai (Photo: Guy Tsabary)


Nuriel stressed that the travel warning was based on new and grave intelligence information.


"New and up-to-date intelligence information accumulated, and it points to a terror cell completing its preparations, marking a target, receiving the green light, and carrying out the act – or en route to carrying it out," he said. "It's hard to know whether the cell is en route to the area, or whether it already carried out the operation."


'We are leaving immediately'

Addressing possible closure of the Taba border crossing, Nuriel said Israel may close the border for a few hours at most. A decision on the matter had not yet been taken he said, adding that Egyptian forces have deployed in force across Sinai in the wake of the terror warning.


However, it appears the travel warning has already prompted some Israelis to reconsider their southern vacation plans.


One Israeli family from Gan Hashomron planned on vacationing in Ras al-Satan, and ultimately decided to stay in Eilat. The father Roni, his daughter Staya, 11, and his four-year-old son heard the travel warning playing over the loudspeakers in Taba Terminal. "We go a few times a year, and there are always travel warnings. It is difficult to tell whether this is a normal travel warning. Now I will look into the matter," Roni said.


Staya heard the warning repeat again in the background and asked her father that they wait another night in Eilat. Ultimately, Roni decided to consult with friends staying in the city. His son was disappointed: "I really love Sinai. I want to cross over (the border)."


Eitan Levy, 30, from Rehovot, crossed the border at the Taba Terminal Tuesday with his friends with plans of staying in Sinai for nearly a week. Just an hour later, he was making his way back into Israel.


"We received phone calls from friends and family who said they had been reading the news to leave Sinai. They held us up at on the Egyptian side because they didn't understand what had happened, so we told them we wanted to return to Israel for no reason. They continued to investigate us until we told them that Israel had issued warnings of a terror attack," Levy said.


Even those who had managed to venture deeper into Sinai found it difficult to remain indifferent in light of the warnings. "We heard about it, and we are leaving here immediately," said Larry, an Israeli staying with his family and friends in Nakhil Inn, a guest house in Nuweiba.


"We are here with the kids and friends, and we are all leaving here now. We heard the warning in the Israeli media, and this is why we are leaving even though we only got here in the afternoon," he said. Despite this, he noted, "Everything is so quiet and safe here, but we want to protect ourselves, and the orders were to leave immediately."


Orly, a former Tel Avivian now living in Sinai and operating a vacation site in Ras al-Satan for 20 years, said that there are some 40 Israelis at the site: "They aren't leaving and aren't afraid. I got stressed out by all the phone calls and the rumors, but I am not disturbed, and neither are the vacationers here. No one is leaving. If something had really happened, we would know."


Yoav Zitun, Ahuva Mamos, and Aviel Magnezi contributed to the story


פרסום ראשון: 04.13.10, 22:40
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