TEL AVIV ø Israel has appealed to its nationals to leave Egypt immediately and
authorities increased the alert level in the Jewish state amid intelligence
that strikes were being planned following the bombing of two vacation sites packed with Israelis.
Officials said the alert has
been compounded by the refusal of Egyptian authorities to cooperate in the
search and rescue effort in Taba.
Officials said that for nearly nine hours, Egyptian authorities
prevented Israeli medical and rescue teams from crossing the border in
Sinai, Middle East Newsline reported. They said that even after permission was granted by the regime of
President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian police continued to block the entry of
Israeli heavy equipment and crews to search for those trapped in the rubble
of the Taba hotel.
"There are efforts to evacuate the Israeli injured," Brig. Gen. Ruth
Yaron, the Israeli military's spokeswoman, said on Friday. "We will need
Egypt's permission for a helicopter to get a full picture of the situation. Unfortunately, the Egyptians haven't granted this permission. We are having
difficulties in getting a range of approvals."
The massive nearly-simultaneous attacks on Israeli targets in Egypt have been attributed to Al Qaida.
"This appears to be the work of international terror groups such as Al
Qaida or its branches," Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim said. "It
is not the kind of attack that we know comes from Palestinian terror
Two vacation sites packed with Israelis were bombed on late Thursday in
Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. One target was the Taba Hilton Hotel, near the
southern Israeli port of Eilat. A beach packed with Israelis was bombed
farther south along the Sinai coast.
At least 26 people were said to have been killed and more than 120
injured in the two attacks. Twenty-four of the casualties ø including seven
Egyptians ø were reported in Taba. Officials said nearly 30 people believed
to have been in the hotel were missing.
Officials said the Taba hotel was destroyed in two nearly simultaneous
bombings. They said a car bomb exploded outside the hotel and a woman
suicide bomber blew herself up in the lobby.
Less than 30 minutes later, at least two Israelis were killed and more
than 15 were injured in two car bombings in Ras Al Shitan near the resort
town of Nueiba, located 40 kilometers south of Taba. The beach targeted was
filled with Israeli vacationers.
Two Islamic insurgency groups claimed responsibility for the attacks.
One of the claims came from Gamiat Islamiya Alamiya, or World Islamist
Group, and the group warned of future attacks. Gamiat was said to be aligned
to Al Qaida.
Another group that claimed responsibility for the strikes in Sinai was
the Union of Islamic Brigades. The group, believed linked to Al Qaida,
praised Osama Bin Laden in a communique posted on the Internet. Both Gamiat
and the Union of Islamic Brigades said they were avenging Israeli strikes
against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
"They [attackers] could have been Al Qaida or the military wing of
Hamas," Ehud Yatom, a senior member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee, said.
For the last month, Israeli authorities had been on alert for a massive
Islamic strike on Israel. Israel had warned its nationals not to travel to
Egypt's Sinai Peninsula because of information of plans by Islamic
insurgents to attack Israeli tourists.