Egyptian security sources said on Friday that the two tourists held hostage in Sinai are to be freed in the coming hours.

The two have been identified as Amir Hassan, a 23-year-old Israeli Arab from Nazareth who studies at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, and his Norwegian girlfriend Ilgo Phillip, aged 32.

Masked gunmen in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula kidnapped the couple traveling between two coastal resorts, Egyptian and Israeli officials said on Friday.

The pair was traveling in a car between Taba, near the Israeli border, and Dahab, a sea resort further south when Bedouin gunmen in a pickup truck captured them, Egyptian security sources said.

Egyptian security agencies were contacting the kidnappers to try to secure the pair's release, the sources said.

Security in the Sinai desert region has deteriorated since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak two years ago.

It did not appear that the Israeli had been targeted because of his nationality, two Israeli officials in Jerusalem said.

"Our initial assessment is that this was criminally motivated," one said.

Bedouin kidnappers have captured tourists in the past to push for the release of fellow tribesmen from jail. Earlier this month kidnappers briefly seized the country boss of US oil major ExxonMobil and his wife.

Bedouin have attacked police stations, blocked access to towns and taken hostages to show their discontent with what they see as their poor treatment by Cairo.

Two American female tourists were kidnapped in Sinai in February last year but Egyptian authorities negotiated their release a few hours later. Two other US tourists were seized in late May that year, and two more US tourists in July. The captives were released within days in both cases.

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