Terrorists targeting Pesach tourists

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 14, 2011
Holidaymakers in Sinai have been warned about potential attacks

Holidaymakers in Sinai have been warned about potential attacks

The coming Pesach holiday has been identified by Israel's intelligence experts as a particularly sensitive period for terror attacks on Jewish targets around the world.

Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau this week warned Israelis planning to travel as far afield as the Far East to observe caution after recent intelligence suggested that groups with links to Hamas, Hizbollah and Al-Qaida were planning attacks and kidnappings.

Security concerns have been heightened by recent events in Gaza, but a senior official at the Bureau said that "the whole [Middle East] region is currently in a state of turmoil and one of the most stable security establishments that in the past we had a degree of trust in, the Egyptians, are now less dependable. In addition, the region is awash with weapons, even more than usual, due to breakdown of authority in Libya and Yemen and the plundering of armouries there."

Two weeks ago, in an airstrike on a car in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, the IDF killed three Hamas members who belonged to a cell that was planning the kidnap of Israeli tourists in Sinai. This led to an even stricter warning than usual to Israelis planning to cross the Eilat border into Egypt and a call to those who were already in Sinai to return to Israel immediately. Despite the warnings, Israel is prevented by the peace agreement with Egypt from closing the border and forbidding its citizens to travel there.

Sinai has become a major hub of activity for Hamas and other terror groups in recent years, especially as the sophisticated border fence and the large IDF presence has reduced terror activity from the Gaza Strip. Last year, a Hamas cell from Gaza used Sinai as a base for a rocket attack on the towns of Eilat and Aqaba in which one Jordanian civilian was killed.

Groups linked to Hamas are planning attacks and kidnappings

Other countries identified as potential terror targets are Greece, Turkey, India and Thailand, where information indicates Islamist groups are planning to attack Israelis and Jewish targets. While the Bureau did not call on Israelis to stop visiting these countries - all popular holiday destinations - they did ask travellers to exercise special care, especially around tourist and entertainment areas and hotels. The threat of a terror attack in India and Thailand by Al-Qaida-inspired groups is thought to be directed not only at Israelis but at Westerners in general.

Another area of concern are Arab countries where tour-groups of Israelis who were born there are allowed to visit under special arrangements.

The countries include, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and even Iraq. The tour-groups are normally protected by the local governments but in the current situation the Bureau believes that travel has become much more dangerous.

Last updated: 12:15pm, April 14 2011