Israel’s counter-terrorism bureau tells its citizens to get out of Sinai

Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau urged Israelis to leave the Sinai immediately. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a warning on Sunday to Israeli citizens to leave the Sinai Peninsula immediately. The bureau also “strongly recommends that all those wishing to go to Sinai refrain from doing so.”

The bureau made its recommendations in light of direct threats from ISIS in Sinai and its increasing activity. “Al-Qaeda operatives are active in the region and encourage attacks on Israeli targets as well,” the bureau’s statement read, describing the travel warning in Sinai as severe or “level 1.”

The Passover holiday, which begins on Friday at sundown and continues for a week, is among the most popular times for Israelis to travel. The Egyptian-controlled Sinai continues to remain a favorite destination despite yearly warnings from Israel’s government to stay away from the area, which Egypt’s government has difficulty controlling and is a base for terror groups.

It has become more dangerous since the formation of a Sinai branch of ISIS in November 2014.

A Tuesday morning discussion on Israel’s Kan Bet station pointed out the ongoing difficulty in keeping Israelis away from Sinai despite the dangers. Israelis view the peninsula with its resorts along the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba as an attractive, geographically convenient, low-cost vacation option. They have also become immune to the constant warnings.

The commentators noted, however, that Israelis who go to Sinai return saying that while they had fun, they also said they found themselves constantly checking over their shoulders.

The Sinai Peninsula is no stranger to violence. Before ISIS formed, Al-Qaeda carried out the 2005 Sharm El Sheikh bombings, a series of terrorist attacks that killed 88 people and wounded 200 more. It was the deadliest terrorist act in Egypt’s history until the 2017 Sinai attack, in which a mosque was struck in Egypt’s northern Sinai killing 311 and wounding 122.

ISIS was blamed for the attack although it didn’t take credit. Survivors said the attackers waved the ISIS flag.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Institute, ISIS in Sinai had focused on attacking Israel until mid-2013, when the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi was driven from power. It since turned its attention to waging war on Egyptian government forces.