Hundreds of Israeli tourists streamed across the border Wednesday following a warning issued by the Counter-Terrorism Bureau Tuesday imploring all Israelis to leave Sinai immediately.
The warning stated that the bureau had received information about possible kidnapping plots aimed at Israelis, and asked all families of Israelis traveling in Sinai to contact them and tell them of the warning.
The head of the bureau said Wednesday that the groups believed to be planning abductions were receiving funding and guidance from Hamas.
Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that by midmorning Wednesday, about 430 of the approximately 650 Israelis who were in Sinai when the warning was issued had returned to Israel.
Tuesday’s warning followed a similar travel advisory issued before Pessah. In spite of the previous warning, nearly 70,000 Israelis crossed into Sinai from Taba during the holiday.
Sinai has always been seen as an exotic, cheap, and scenic beachside destination within driving distance of Israel. All that changed following a series of bombings in October 2004 which led to a sharp fall in Israeli tourism in Sinai, a drop that has not been reversed since. The vast size of the Sinai Peninsula, in addition to its harsh climate and rugged mountain ranges, have always made it a very difficult area to police.
In addition to the 2004 terrorist attacks, in 2005 bombers struck Sharm e-Sheikh in southern Sinai, and in 2006, the resort town of Dahab.
Last April, Egyptian authorities arrested 50 people allegedly tied to Hizbullah whom they said were plotting to attack Israeli tourists in Sinai.