An Arab Israeli man who was reported kidnapped upon entering the Sinai Peninsula contacted his family on Friday afternoon and confirmed reports of the incident.
According to Amir Omar Hassan’s family, Bedouin are holding him hostage until the Egyptian government releases two men who are currently imprisoned in Cairo.
Israeli officials confirmed earlier Friday that an Israeli and a female European friend had been kidnapped near the Taba crossing in the Sinai. According to the captive’s family, 23-year-old said that he had crossed into the Peninsula with two female friends.
The tourists were reportedly grabbed by an armed Bedouin gang soon after they crossed from the Israeli to the Egyptian side of the border, en route to a local beach. The Israeli and his companions were traveling in a taxi, reported Channel 2 News.
According to Egyptian media reports, the gang pulled the foreigners from the taxi at gunpoint, and forced them into another car. The taxi driver was also kidnapped, reported Channel 2, but then released. It was the driver, an Egyptian Bedouin, who alerted the Egyptian authorities of the incident.
The Israeli, a student from Nazareth, is a member of the country’s Arab minority. One of women is believed to be Norwegian, according to Israeli officials.
Given the terror risks in the somewhat anarchic Sinai area, fewer Israeli Jews visit the area than in years past, and most of Israeli tourists visiting there are Arabs. An official Israeli terror warning advises Israelis against going to the Sinai altogether.
Earlier reports indicated that two Israelis had been nabbed.
The Foreign Ministry and other Israeli officials are staying in close contact with Egyptian authorities in an attempt to release the captives.
Arab MK Ahmad Tibi told Channel 2 News that the Israeli’s family had asked the legislator to contact the Egyptian authorities on their behalf. Tibi said he had done so, and that he is currently involved in negotiating the captives’ release. He said officials in Cairo were aware of the situation and added, “We’re working for a quick resolution of the incident.”
According to Tibi, it appears that the motivation behind the kidnapping was the release of prisoners from Egyptian jails, and that the attackers did not target Israelis specifically.