‘Warning over Sinai terrorists prompted Eilat airport closure’

Senior Egyptian official says Salafis armed with missiles with range of 70 km planned to target Israel

Illustrative. An airplane taking off from Eilat's airport, December 2012. (Moshe Shai/ Flash90/ File)
Illustrative. An airplane taking off from Eilat's airport, December 2012. (Moshe Shai/ Flash90/ File)

A warning from Egyptian security officials, that terrorists in the Sinai armed with missiles planned to target Israel, reportedly prompted the closure Thursday of the airport in Eilat.

A high-level Egyptian military official said Salafi groups had come into possession of missiles with a range of 70 kilometers and intended to target the airport in the Israeli Red Sea resort town and other Israeli targets, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported Friday.

The official told Ma’an that Egypt had increased its security presence in the Sinai in recent days, pursuant to intelligence that indicated terrorists would also target military and strategic installations in the peninsula, with anti-aircraft missiles among other weapons.

Israeli officials have been mum as to why they shut down the airport for two hours late Thursday. Unnamed officials had told Israeli media that the closure was due to unspecified “security concerns.”

Terrorists in the Sinai — which has seen an uptick in violence since the ouster of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi in early July — have fired rockets at Eilat several times in the past, including last month.

In April, Channel 2 reported that Israel’s security services were considering closing down the Eilat airport for an unspecified, extended period.

In the interim, the report said, a decision was made to equip all Israeli planes using the airport with the revolutionary Rakia defense system, designed to protect passenger planes from attack by terrorists equipped with shoulder-fired missiles. The system was fully operational, the report said.

The airport is predominantly used by Israeli airlines, flying passengers to and from Ben-Gurion International Airport and Tel Aviv’s Sde Dov.

On Thursday, Egyptian security personnel reported capturing some 100 suspected terrorists in the Sinai, according to Israel Radio.

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