- The Washington Times - Monday, April 24, 2006

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — Three explosions rocked the Egyptian resort city of Dahab at the height of the tourist season today, killing at least 18 people and wounding more than 150 at just one hotel, according to the doctor in charge of the Sinai peninsula rescue squad.

Police said the explosions hit the central part of the city where there are many shops, restaurants, bars and guesthouses. The blasts ripped through the town shortly after nightfall when the streets would have been jammed with tourists, mainly with Europeans, Israelis and expatriates living in Egypt.

Dr. Said Essa, who runs the rescue squad, said his casualty figures were for victims at the el-Khaleeg Hotel only. He said there were casualties from the other explosions.

A witness, Serge Loussararian, told CNN that an explosion took place in an area with restaurants and bars. “We heard the explosion and then we saw a big light. And a lot of people running,” he said.

Terrorist attacks have killed nearly 100 people at several tourist resorts of Egypt’s Sinai region in the past two years.

Bombings in the resorts of Taba and Ras Shitan, near the Israeli border, killed 34 people in October 2004. Last July, suicide attackers in the resort of Sharm el-Sheik killed at least 64 people, mainly tourists.

The Egyptian government has said the militants who carried out the bombings were locals without international connections, but other security agencies have said they suspect al-Qaida.

For years, Dahab was popular, low-key haven for young Western backpackers - including Israelis - drawn by prime scuba diving sites and cheap hotels, which mainly consisted of huts set up along the beach. In recent years, a number of more upscale hotels have been built, including a five-star Hilton resort.

Dahab is located on the Gulf of Aqaba on the eastern side of the Sinai Peninsula and is about 65 miles south of Taba, near the border at the southern tip of Israel.

In Israel, the country’s rescue service said it had raised the alert level. Israeli Channel 10 TV reported that Israel had closed the border crossing at Taba, preventing vehicles from entering Sinai. It said a stream of Israeli vehicles were leaving Sinai.

Many Israelis travel to the Sinai for beach holidays.

Israel’s ambassador in Cairo, Shalom Cohen, told Israel’s Channel 10 TV that there were three explosions, hitting a hotel, a police station and a marketplace.

“We don’t know of Israelis” who were hurt, he said, though some Israelis were known to be in Dahab.

Cohen said the best thing Israeli tourists in Sinai could do now would be to “go home.”

He said there have been repeated warnings from the Israeli government against visiting the Sinai Desert, where Israelis have been targeted in attacks in the past.

“Unfortunately, the warnings came true,” he said.

The Israeli rescue service, Magen David Adom, offered help through the International Red Cross and the Egyptian Red Crescent but has not received a reply, the service said in a statement.

It said about 20 ambulances were standing by at the Taba crossing between Israel and Egypt if needed.

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