Four armed men attacked a hotel in an Egyptian Red Sea resort popular with Israeli holidaymakers before fleeing when police returned fire, security sources and witnesses said on Tuesday.
The men may have been trying to rob a jewellery shop at the hotel in the Taba Heights resort in South Sinai, the security sources said.
There were no injuries in the attack but several Israelis staying at the hotel cut short their vacations to return to Israel, they said. They men sped away in an unlicensed pick-up truck before they could be arrested.
It was the first reported attack on Taba since 2004 when a series of blasts blamed on Islamist militants killed more than 34 people.
Separately, Bedouin tribesmen released 50 German and British tourists whose coach accidentally crossed a roadblock they had set up as a protest against the governor of South Sinai, the security sources said.
The tourists, who were on their way to visit a monastery, were held for several hours in the Wadi Ferran area until they were freed unharmed, they said.
The tribesmen said they had not intended to detain the tourists as part of the protest, which began after they were "insulted" by the regional governor.
The governor said he would discuss their demands for jobs and the cancellation of court prison sentences handed down to some of their fellow Bedouin in absentia.
Both incidents reflect weakened security in the isolated desert region since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising last February. South Sinai's Red Sea coast is a major tourism hub for Egypt.
Bedouin who complain that they are neglected by the authorities in Cairo have attacked police stations and blocked access to towns and villages to show their discontent.
Israel has complained that lawlessness in Sinai has allowed militant Islamist groups sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state to gain a foothold in the isolated border region.
Earlier Tuesday, Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz discussed the Sinai security issue in a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee overview. According to Gantz, under military rule in Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula "has become a no mans land with developing terror cells."
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