IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz gave the Israel Airports
Authority permission to reopen Eilat Airport on Thursday night after it had been
closed for more than two hours due to unspecified security reasons.
decision to reopen the airport came following a security evaluation called by
Gantz. The IDF said it would continue to monitor events, but military sources
noted that the closure in the early evening was not due to any ongoing security
The airport was closed to incoming and outgoing flights at
approximately 7 p.m. on Thursday evening following a security assessment, and
reopened just after 9 p.m.
In the interim, travelers with tickets on
canceled outgoing flights were transferred by bus to nearby Uvda Airport, which
was opened to accommodate them following the decision to close the Eilat
The IDF order to close Eilat Airport came after Egypt’s army
announced on Wednesday
that it had killed 60 terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula
in the month since the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
Citing widening “terrorist operations” in “recent times,” the Egyptian military
said it was conducting an intensified campaign in Sinai in coordination with the
country’s Interior Ministry to crack down on terrorists who “threaten Egyptian
Terrorists based mainly in north Sinai near Israel’s
border have escalated attacks on security forces and other targets since July 3,
when the Egyptian army deposed Morsi and installed a new
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said last month
that Egypt has
inserted additional military forces – including assault helicopters – into Sinai
after receiving permission from Israel, in line with the peace treaty between
the two countries.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yisrael Ziv a former head of IDF
Operations, said on Thursday night that he “couldn’t rule out the possibility”
that there was a connection between the closure of the Eilat Airport and the US
decision this week to shut a number of embassies in the region due to al-Qaida
He suggested that a terrorist plot might have
originated on the Egyptian side of the border, in the lawless Sinai
“It appears that we received information in recent hours that
something is happening in Sinai,” Ziv told Channel 1 Television.
has become a serious problem from a security point of view. Like Afghanistan, it
has become an unmanageable territory.”
In Cairo, on Id al-Fitr, the
festival ending Ramadan, Islamist supporters of Morsi held a rally to demand his
restoration after the military-led authorities that removed him held off from a
threat to break up protest sit-ins.
Morsi’s rarely seen wife, Naglaa
Mahmoud, made a surprise appearance on stage at the main demonstration in the
Egyptian capital to appeal for her husband’s return, as the crowds roared
“Returning! Returning!” Interim President Adly Mansour said on Wednesday that
international diplomatic efforts had failed to resolve the political crisis and
the government warned activists to leave the protest camps, saying the decision
to remove them was final.
US and European Union envoys left Cairo after
the breakdown of their attempts to broker a solution, which had involved Qatar
and the United Arab Emirates.
However, a person involved in the mediation
effort said the authorities and Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood might yet step back
from confrontation and implement mutual confidence-building steps that could lead
to a negotiated settlement.
“It’s not over yet,” the diplomat said. “It
could work, but we don’t have any guarantees. Everything is very
Government and military sources said the talks were not
terminated, but had been frozen to assuage public anger over perceived foreign
interference in Egypt’s affairs and, among some, at the authorities’ willingness
to negotiate with the Brotherhood after months of demonizing them.
military source said the authorities were holding back from using force to clear
the protest camps partly due to fear that liberal Vice President Mohamed
ElBaradei would resign, removing a source of political legitimacy for army
State-owned newspapers splashed giant red headlines such as “The
last warning,” “Government to Brotherhood: Diplomacy is finished,” and “Egypt
rejects sermons from the American Satan,” a sign of the contempt with which the
public holds the United States, which provides Egypt with $1.5 billion in annual
Morsi has been jailed at a secret location since the military
removed him from power on July 3, and other senior Brotherhood figures have been
Thousands of Morsi followers have maintained vigils at two
Cairo locations for five weeks, despite government orders to disband and two
mass shootings when security forces killed scores of them with live
Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi visited the Central
Security Forces with the Interior Minister in an apparent effort to calm
hard-liners impatient for tougher action.
“He assured them that the
government places security at the top of its priorities and that there is no
stable society without security that is founded on the law and that protects the
sovereignty of the state and the lives of its citizens and their possessions,” a
statement from Beblawi’s office said.
Thousands of demonstrators
converged on the Brotherhood protest camp in northeastern Cairo in a festive
atmosphere to attend prayers and a rally on the first day of the Id al-Fitr
The public appearance of Morsi’s wife after five weeks out of
the limelight since her husband’s detention caused wild excitement outside the
Rabaa al- Adawiya mosque. She waved her hands above her head, flanked by senior
Brotherhood leader Mohamed el-Beltagi.
“Of course it’s very difficult for
me to speak. God willing, he is returning; God willing, God willing,” she said
in a strong voice, dressed in a cream-colored waist-length veil over a long
“Praise God, the Egyptian people proved that they are
Islamist... God willing, Islamist,” she said.
Secular and leftist
groups have called for mass demonstrations and public prayers across Egypt to
support what they see as a popular revolution that led to the overthrow of Morsi
by the military after just a year in office.
In one apparent conciliatory
gesture, prosecutors dropped the main charge against the head of the
Brotherhood’s political wing, Saad el-Katatni, in a possible prelude to
The Brotherhood allowed a human rights organization and a
European Parliament delegation to visit the Rabaa al- Adawiya sit-in, where
anti-Morsi media have alleged that weapons had been stockpiled – a charge denied
by the Islamists.
The person involved in the mediation effort said a
sequence of statements and confidence-building measures aimed at reducing
tensions and reassuring public opinion might yet lead to direct or indirect
negotiations between the two sides.
So far, the Brotherhood has refused
to accept what it calls the illegal coup and has publicly demanded the return of
the elected president. The new authorities have accused Islamist leaders of
inciting violence, frozen the Brotherhood’s assets and vowed to put them on
“The train of the future has departed, and everyone must realize
the moment and catch up with it, and whoever fails to realize this moment must
take responsibility for their decision,” Mansour said in an Id al-Fitr
Diplomats have said any settlement would have to involve a
dignified exit for Morsi, Brotherhood acceptance of the new disposition, the
release of political prisoners arrested since the takeover and a future
political role for the Brotherhood.
The United States and the EU said on
Wednesday they were very concerned that the Egyptian parties had not found a way
to break what they called a dangerous stalemate.
“This remains a very
fragile situation, which holds not only the risk of more bloodshed and
polarization in Egypt but also impedes the economic recovery, which is so
essential for Egypt’s successful transition,” US Secretary of State John Kerry
and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, visiting Cairo when the talks collapsed, said
the country’s new rulers appeared to see no merit in talking to the Brotherhood
now, but they would have to do so eventually and the sooner the
While violence has subsided in Cairo since a July 27 incident in
which security forces shot dead at least 80 Islamist protesters, daily clashes
continue between Islamist terrorists and the Egyptian army in the Sinai
Peninsula adjoining Israel. Medical officials have said the terrorists have
killed about 40 people, mostly members of the security forces.
Brotherhood says it has no links to the Sinai terrorists.