Israeli tourists rush back home

Thousands of frightened Israeli tourists were rushing back home from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Friday, after car bombs ripped through two Egyptian beach resorts crowded with Israeli visitors.

At least 19 people were killed and more than 120 wounded in the blasts at the Taba Hilton, a luxury hotel just south of the Israeli border, and at the Ras Shitan resort of beach huts.

Many Israeli tourists complained bitterly about the Egyptian authorities who they said prevented tourists from leaving their hotels after the blasts and delayed them at the border.

About 15 000 Israelis had been spending the weeklong Jewish holiday of Sukkot in the Sinai, despite warnings by the Israeli government a month ago that there was a high probability of a terror attack on Israeli tourists in the area.

Vicky Arazi (30) a resident of Tel Aviv, said she usually doesn’t pay attention to official warnings. “There are always warnings, usually nothing happens,” she said after crossing back into Israel at Taba.

“This time something happened.”

Heinz Metler (54) said he was staying at a Sinai beach resort when he heard the blast in Taba, 20km to the north.

Metler said he quickly returned to his beach bungalow with his family and turned off the lights, to avoid attracting attention in case more attackers were in the area. He kept in touch with fellow Israelis through SMS messages.

At daybreak, Metler and his family made their way to Taba.
He said the Egyptian authorities were unhelpful.

“They did absolutely nothing. At the border, we were delayed,” he said.

Udi Natan (29) who also stayed at a resort south of Taba, said there was an Egyptian roadblock outside his hotel, and Egyptian police tried to prevent Israeli tourists from leaving. Natan said he simply walked through the checkpoint and hitched a ride with an Israeli motorist heading north.

Shimon Romah, an Israeli fire chief, said rescue workers lost precious time because they were unable to bring heavy equipment to Taba for several hours.

“This was just a travesty, because these were four critical hours,” Romah told Israel Radio.

Firefighters and medics were allowed to cross Taba on foot. - Sapa-AP

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