CAIRO/JERUSALEM: Israel’s government on Thursday told its citizens to immediately leave Egypt’s Sinai desert because of a kidnapping threat from the Army of Islam, after Egyptian security rounded up suspected militants and confiscated explosives.
Egyptian security officials said they arrested members of a cell planning to attack Israelis and international forces in Sinai. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters, said police carried out raids in three cities in Sinai and seized explosives.
They did not identify the cell, but said the militants planned to attack Israeli tourists in southern Sinai during the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, which starts Tuesday, as well as the foreign peacekeeping forces.
The officials said they received an intelligence tip from Israel about the group.
The travel warning was issued late Thursday by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office.
The warning quoted "reliable and current intelligence" about a kidnapping plot and called on "all Israelis in Sinai to leave immediately and return to Israel."
The Sinai desert with its Red Sea coast, located next to Israel, is a favorite vacation spots for Israelis.
Because of past attacks, Israel’s government issues periodic travel warnings about the territory.
In October 2004, 34 people, most of them Israelis, were killed when suicide bombers blew up the Taba Hilton Hotel in Sinai, just across the Israeli border, as well as a popular campsite. –Associated Press writer Maggie Michael contributed to this report from Cairo.