As Israelis head to Sinai, Barak nixes idea to close border

Defense minister says closing border would harm Israel's strategic relationship with Egypt.

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September 24, 2008 23:00
1 minute read.
As Israelis head to Sinai, Barak nixes idea to close border

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The security cabinet on Wednesday discussed terrorism threats facing Israelis abroad and their refusal to heed travel warnings, as thousands of Israelis are expected to go to Sinai over the upcoming holidays. While some have called recently for the government to do more to prevent Israelis from going to Sinai, perhaps even making it illegal to do so, Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly said that such a move would harm Israel's strategic relationship with Egypt. It is one thing, one diplomatic official said, to advise Israelis not to go to Sinai, and yet another to close the border. Such an act would surely be interpreted as hostile by the Egyptians, and not a move befitting two countries at peace. Israel Radio reported on Wednesday that some 7,000 Israelis were expected to travel to Sinai over the Rosh Hashana holiday. The security cabinet was briefed on the travel warnings issued by the National Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Bureau, discussing both the process involved in issuing such travel advisories, and the scope of the threat against Israelis. The counter-terrorism bureau has recently issued strict travel advisories against going to Sinai. A communiqué issued after the security cabinet meeting said the ministers "underscored the need for Israeli citizens to be attentive to NSC Counter Terrorism Bureau warnings and to take obligatory precautions." According to the statement, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said - in an apparent reference to the assassination of Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh in Syria - that "various events have occurred in recent years, which have created high motivation among the terrorist organizations, mainly Hizbullah, to attack Israelis. Government bodies are making every effort to map the threats and warn against them; however, it is the responsibility - first and foremost - of every citizen who travels abroad to keep far away from dangerous areas and to take the obligatory precautions." Olmert said these threats must be taken "very seriously" by both the government's bodies and the average citizen. The cabinet also discussed, for yet another time, efforts at re-tooling the National Security Council, in line with recommendations from the Winogard Committee that looked into the execution of the Second Lebanon War.

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