Terror alert shuts sites near Egyptian border

Security forces concerned that amid Rafah Crossing crisis, terrorists might seize the opportunity to launch attacks on Israel.

soldier 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
soldier 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
As the flow of Gazans into the Sinai Peninsula continued unchecked throughout the weekend, security forces raised the alert along the Israeli-Egyptian border amid increased concerns that terrorists might seize the opportunity to cross it and launch attacks on Israel. In addition to the Thursday closure of Route 10, which runs along the border from Ovda to Kerem Shalom, the IDF decided Friday to temporarily close tourist areas near the border, including Be'er Milcha, Be'erotayim, Ezuz, Mt. Harif, the Lotz Pools, Mt. Ramon and the various mountain trails around Eilat. Parts of Route 10 are frequently closed to civilian traffic due to terror warnings on the narrow road, which winds through isolated and mountainous territory, often passing within meters of the Egyptian border. Members of the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council said Saturday that they were furious at the IDF closures. "The IDF won't reinforce its forces along the border, [but] instead has released the announcement about closing tourist sites and communities in the region. This wrongful announcement has caused damage to the tourist sites in the area," said council head Shmulik Riefman. The bulk of the terror warnings, security officials said, concerned Eilat, where additional checkpoints were set up at the city entrances. The IDF increased its activity in the surrounding mountainous regions. Plans have been under way for some time now to build a 14-kilometer-long security fence along the Egyptian border in the area closest to Eilat, but no progress has been made so far on the NIS 300 million project. In 2007, security forces nabbed a total of 115 terrorists who tried to infiltrate the country through the open Egyptian border. One year ago this week, three Eilat residents were killed after 21-year-old Gazan Muhammad al-Saqsaq entered Israel through the border several dozen kilometers northwest of the city and then detonated a bomb in a popular neighborhood bakery. Meanwhile, after weeks of barrages, residents of Sderot and the northern part of the western Negev enjoyed a relatively quiet Shabbat. One Kassam rocket landed in an open area between two local communities on Saturday afternoon, and the "Color Red" sirens were sounded once in Sderot on Friday, but no rockets fell in the beleaguered town. Overnight Thursday, the IAF launched an assault in Rafah against what they said were Hamas operatives planning a terror attack. Four Hamas members were killed, including Muhammad Abu Harb, a senior operative believed to be responsible for coordinating Kassam attacks on Sderot. A fifth Hamas operative was wounded in the air strikes.