The border fence between Israel and Egypt along Highway 12.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
During a security assessment Thursday night, Israel's defense establishment decided to temporarily close Highway 12 in the South to vehicular traffic starting Friday at 5 a.m., amid tensions in the nearby Sinai Peninsula.
The IDF has increased vigilance in light of fighters linked to Islamic State having taken control of an Egyptian military armored vehicle and tank, creating concern that the Islamists in the volatile region might attempt to break into Israeli territory.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Gadi Eizenkot and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon made the decision to cordon off the road - which runs from Eilat and northward near the border between Israel and Egypt before heading toward central Israel.
"The temporary cessation of movement of vehicles on the road was decided upon in light of the situational assessment, for security reasons and within the framework of the commitment to maintain the security of of Israel's citizens," said the IDF Spokesperson's Unit.
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"The military is prepared to defend the residents of Israel and it will do everything possible to maintain routine and prevent harm to the quality of life of local residents," the IDF added.
Islamic State's Egypt affiliate, Sinai Province, claimed responsibility for Wednesday's coordinated attacks against security forces in North Sinai that left at least 100 dead.
Following the attacks, Israel closed the Niztana and Kerem Shalom border crossings on Wednesday, but later reopened them on Thursday.
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Also on Thursday, Egypt launched air strikes on Islamist militant targets in the Sinai peninsula, killing 23 fighters a day after the deadliest clashes in the region in years, security sources said.
The sources said those killed had taken part in Wednesday's fighting in which 100 militants and 17 soldiers, including four officers, were killed, according to the army spokesman.
Reuters contributed to this report.