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Israel advises Israeli tourists to leave Sinai amid 'terrorist attack' warnings

Jan. 25, 2017 11:06 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 25, 2017 4:18 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli government warned its citizens on Tuesday of possible "terrorist attacks" in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on the sixth anniversary of Egypt's January 25 revolution.

In a statement to the media, the Israeli government's "anti-terrorism" directorate advised all Israeli tourists vacationing at Red Sea resorts in the Sinai to leave the region immediately.

The directorate issued a "level 1 alert," the highest warning of its kind.

The Sinai Peninsula has been the site of ongoing attacks -- predominantly targeting Egyptian military and police forces -- which have increased since Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi took power from Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.

The Egyptian president came under attack following his violent suppression of Muslim Brotherhood members following his rise to power, which al-Sisi has argued is necessary to deter future attacks in the Sinai and across Egypt.

Egyptian security sources told Ma'an on Sunday that militants connected to the so-called Islamic State under the local affiliate group the Sinai Province blew up two transmission towers in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday evening, while in northern Sinai two Egyptian policemen were reportedly injured during clashes with unidentified gunmen.

Last Monday, sources said that a Palestinian was killed and two Egyptians were injured after a bomb exploded in front of an auto shop in al-Arish, with the coastal city reportedly being targeted by a suicide bombing a week prior.

Meanwhile, Egyptian forces killed at least 10 Egyptian youths in al-Arish last Friday, who Egypt claimed were responsible for carrying out “terror attacks” over the previous days in the town. Days later, Al-Jazeera reported that residents in al-Arish were accusing the state of carrying out "extrajudicial killings," saying that six of the slain youths named by the Egypt's Ministry of Interior had been detained months prior by Egyptian authorities.

Al-Sisi said earlier this month that 25,000 soldiers were deployed in northern Sinai to fight the militants, a previously undisclosed figure that seemed to underline the magnitude of the conflict.

According to a report from Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Egyptian government said that its counter-terrorism operations in North Sinai killed at least 3,091 “terrorists” between January and July 2015, with HRW noting that the government did not allow independent observers into the area of fighting and did not acknowledge any civilian deaths in the Sinai, while the Egyptian government has barred journalists from reporting on events in Sinai.

Amid the violence, Egyptian authorities have also been accused of heavy-handed tactics, including collective punishment following deadly attacks, by imposing curfews and a state of emergency, and even ordering the destruction of hundreds of homes skirting Sinai’s border with the besieged Gaza Strip.

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