Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a terror alert for the Sinai Peninsula on Thursday.
According to the Bureau, reliable and current information received by security forces shows that a cell of Army of Islam activists are planning to kidnap Israelis vacationing in Sinai. The Army of Islam is an organization which took part in an attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing in which IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped, and in the kidnapping of British reporter Alan Johnston in 2007. The group also planned to target former British Prime Minister Tony Blair during his visit to Gaza in July 2008.
The terror threat was labeled as “very high and concrete,” and the Counter-Terrorism Bureau called on all Israelis staying in the Sinai Peninsula to leave immediately and return to Israel. Families of Israelis staying in Sinai have been asked to contact their relatives and update them about the travel warning.
Last week, the IDF and the Israel Security Agency (ISA) killed 27-year-old Mohammed Jamal a-Nahmnam, a member of the Army of Islam who was responsible for security. He was killed by a car bomb near the Hamas police station in Gaza City. A-Nahmnam was involved in past terrorist attacks on Israel, and was plotting attacks against Israel and American targets in Sinai, in coordination with Hamas.
Prior to the issuing of the terror alert the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency reported that Egypt had arrested a 25-member terror cell in the area between El-Arish and Rafah on the Gaza border. The members of the cell are suspected of planning to attack United Nations personnel stationed in the Sinai, as well as Israeli tourists.
The Sinai Peninsula is considered a top vacation spot for Israelis but has also seen deadly terror attacks by terrorists operating within Egypt, and is often under terror alerts. Last April, a similar terror alert was issued, as Israeli tourists and vacationers were urged to evacuate the Sinai Desert due to “concrete evidence” regarding an immediate terrorist attempt to kidnap Israelis.
In Thursday’s terror alert, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau explained that the travel warning is a recommendation only and the decision to visit or stay anywhere abroad is at the discretion of each individual and is his sole responsibility.