Israelis told to leave Sinai

US envoy: Israel has every right to defend itself

The National Security Council Tuesday night advised all Israeli travelers to leave Sinai immediately due to threats that Israelis would be kidnapped there. Earlier in the day, the security cabinet rejected a plan to overhaul security, most significantly by erecting a new, robust security fence along the border with Egypt at a cost of NIS 1.5 billion over three years. Instead, the cabinet approved an allocation of NIS 150 million for the time being. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Finance Minister Ehud Olmert were among those to gang up on Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz for pushing for additional funds, arguing that money was more urgently needed to help the poor, according to aides familiar with the proceedings. Last week, Sharon said the 220-kilometer border with Sinai, which has seen increasing smuggling of weapons and other contraband, had to be "hermetically sealed." At the meeting, Shalom also agreed to raise awareness about the danger posed by the Egyptian border with the international community. Later in the day, Shalom took up the issue of Syria's harboring of Islamic Jihad when he met with US Ambassador Richard Jones. Following Monday's suicide bombing in Netanya, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters: "The organization that claims responsibility for this attack is Palestinian Islamic Jihad and they have their headquarters in Damascus. So if anybody needed a reminder, this is it, that the Syrian government should take immediate steps to crackdown on this group and to inhibit its activities by shutting down Islamic Jihad offices and expelling its personnel." On Tuesday, Jones said that Israel "has every right to defend its people," adding, "We are doing everything we can to persuade the Palestinian Authority to shoulder its responsibility as a partner for peace." At the meeting, Shalom also said that the PA, and specifically its chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, must act against terror, but that Israel would also take measures to defend itself, including from Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip. He ruled out, however, sending troops into Gaza. Also Tuesday, Giora Eiland agreed to stay in his post as National Security Council chairman despite having planned to leave at the end of the year.