The Taba explosion that occurred on Sunday, killing four and injuring several others, is a stark reminder of the danger in the south that Israel faces.
A bomb explosion early Sunday afternoon on a tourist bus on the Egyptian side of the Taba crossing (the international border between Taba, Egypt and Eilat, Israel) killed at least four people and wounded more than 20. The incident also serves as a warning regarding the dangerous security situation in southern Israel, as it took place approximately 50 meters away from the Israeli border.
Three tourists from South Korea and an Egyptian bus driver were killed.
The Israel Defense Forces High Command and Magen David Adom emergency services immediately went on high alert. The border crossing was sealed and then reopened only for Israeli tourists wishing to return home.
Although Israeli medics rushed to the scene and came fully prepared, they were turned away, according to media reports. Consequently, the injured victims were taken to Egyptian hospitals that were not as nearby and they had to wait longer to receive medical attention.
The tourists, including 32 Korean Christian pilgrims, had been visiting the ancient Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine in central Sinai and were on their way to Eilat.
Jean Antoine of Craft Tours, the company which owns the bus, said the “bomb was planted under the driver’s seat inside the bus,” Al Jazeera reports. “He added that the bus was parked outside the monastery the previous night.”
Terrorist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Arab media reports. Based in Sinai, the terror, which is linked to Al-Qaida, had also been firing missiles to Eilat in recent weeks.
Since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in July, terror attacks in Egypt have become more frequent. However, while previous attacks targeted military and police, Sunday’s explosion was the first to aim at civilians.
“Al-Qaida-inspired Islamists based in largely lawless Sinai have stepped up attacks on security forces [in Egypt], killing hundreds, since army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted elected President Mohamed Morsi of the Brotherhood in July,” notes the Jerusalem Post.
“If terrorists were behind Sunday’s attack, that would mark a shift in strategy to targeting tourists and economic targets, and not just Egyptian police and soldiers.”
Health Minister Maha El-Rabat and Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou have been visiting the injured, Egyptian news sites say.
“I hope this will be an isolated incident that will not reoccur,” Zaazou said, according to the Post.
“Our government cannot repress our anger and astonishment over [the attack],” South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young stated. “We strongly condemn it.”
“In English, the Muslim Brotherhood condemned the attack; however, in Arabic, it tweeted that some of those killed were ‘Zionists,’” the Post reports.
Date: Feb. 17, 2014