Sinai Massacre – an Iranian-Hizballah-al Qaeda Co-production

Friday, October 8, on the morning after a terrorist bombing rampage at three idyllic Sinai desert resorts – with two dozen known dead and scores still missing – the first clues have been found to the identities of the hands behind the massacre and their targets. debkafile‘s intelligence and counter-terror sources report that the explosives used to tear away the entire frontage of the Taba Hilton and hit the Nueiba oasis campside further south on the Red Sea coast were of Iranian manufacture; the same make as the bombs used in the 1996 Khobar Towers blast and he 2003 Istanbul attacks.
Egyptian intelligence investigators are working on the same premise as their Israeli counterparts that a Hizballah cell based in Sinai rigged the four bomb cars and by mid-September had them ready for Thursday’s multiple strike. Two were reserved for the 10-storey Taba Hilton, where bodies are still being dug out of the rubble.
Intelligence of suggestive Hizballah movements prompted the counter-terror center at the Israeli prime minister’s office to warn Israeli travelers on the eve of the Jewish New Year to miss out on their favorite holiday sites in Sinai. Nonetheless, 15,000 Israelis were trapped there Thursday night.
(The Hizballah’s Sinai cell is part of the Palestinian international weapons smuggling network that has grown out of the Sinai-Gaza tunnel system and which now branches out to East Africa, Arabia, the Persian Gulf, Syria, Turkey and Chechnya.)
Two of the four bomb cars have been identified as “Ramses,” an Egyptian version of the Fiat. They were kept hidden in caves and wadis around the Sinai desert in waiting for the suicide bombers. Another Egyptian intelligence premise is that between 4 and 6 bombers activated the death cars, arriving one or two days earlier by one of two routes – from Sudan or from Saudi Arabia via Sudan. They would have reached the Egyptian Red Sea port of Gardaka and taken a regular ferry to Sharm el-Sheikh. Disembarking passengers are only lightly searched as Egypt has no wish to hurt its tourist trade. The other possibility is that the bombers crossed the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia and arrived at the Sharm el-Sheikh marina aboard a Saudi yacht, knowing the Egyptians would never search it.
A few hours later, they would have been picked up and driven to the hidden bomb cars by Hizballah operatives.
The death toll from the Taba Hilton bomb blast rose Friday night to 30, most Israeli, at least 6 Egyptians and several Russians and other nationalities. Israeli homeland security and Egyptian rescue teams in intense round the clock operation extricated four more bodies from the hotel debris.
Others will be identified by DNA testing. Six bodies transferred to Israel thus far.
At least 60 Israeli hotel guests are still missing.
Six thousand Israelis are still in Sinai of the 15,000 at the time of the attacks. No contact has been established with 250. Altogether 200 Israeli aid and rescue personnel are operating now in Sinai.
The triple terrorist attack in Sinai Thursday night, October 7, was aimed against Israelis and Egyptians. Its central targets were:
1. The Taba Hilton which was crowded with Israelis.
2. The Nueiba resort, further south on the Red Sea coast of Sinai. debkafile‘s exclusive sources reveal the bomb car was timed for the arrival of a group of 40 high-ranking Egyptian officials, most of them close friends of Gemal Mubarak, son and heir apparent of the Egyptian president. Twenty were hurt, some very seriously, and flown out by one of the two presidential planes sent over to remove them from danger without delay. Among them was the head of the ruling party’s economy committee, the director general of Egyptian airports and a son of a former deputy prime minister who is now a leading financial figure. That the terrorists had advance knowledge of this high-powered group’s private visit to the resort is a measure of their efficient and well-placed intelligence, not only in Sinai, but in Cairo too.
3. Ras al-Satan between Taba and Nueiba boasts a cluster of straw-thatched restaurants, popular with Israelis and Egyptians alike. Some witnesses report two suicide cars, not one, exploded at its center.
Once the Egyptian authorities grasped the mega-scale of the assault, they moved fast to tighten security at all border stations and ports including the Taba terminal on the Israeli border. This caused great distress to injured Israelis who were desperate to get out, also holding up the life-saving efforts of Israeli aid teams, fire engines and manned ambulances, which piled up at the terminal until early morning while the Taba Hilton burned and caved in.
Witnesses later affirmed that the Egyptians were more efficient than seemed at first. But they made a point of insisting that this was the first al Qaeda crisis on Egyptian soil and it was up to them to assert full control. Appearing to allow Israelis, especially in uniform, take over would make Egypt an object of derision in every Arab country.
For the same reason, Cairo turned down offers by the Sinai Multinational Force Organization, the MFO, of a helicopter squadron to evacuate casualties and of aid by the US 82 Airborne Division based in Sharm el-Sheikh. The Egyptians only agreed to let US army medics examine their injured VIPs.
The removal of Israeli bodies from the attack-sites has been slow, mostly because of identification problems posed by the state of the bodies and absence of passports and guest lists in the ruined hotel. Egyptian investigators are ascertaining that the bodies released are of bona fide guests at all three targeted sites and not connected to the terrorists.
The many Russian passport-holders, dead or missing, who stayed at the hotel pose a special identification problem. They may be immigrants to Israel who kept their Russian documents, tourists from Russia or even Islamic extremists from North Caucasian republics.
Shortly after the mega-terror assaults in Sinai, Egyptian security forces swung into action to tighten security and block up the many exits from the country.
1. A manhunt was launched for the Hizballah cell and al Qaeda operatives, their surrogates and accomplices, who set up the attack and drove the suicide bombers to target. By midnight, Sinai was declared a closed military zone and Egyptians air and sea ports shut to traffic. It was taken into account that, somewhere in Sinai or Egypt, the terrorists may have had a set of false papers waiting for their getaway.
2. The sea ferries docking on the Sinai coast, including the service from Jordan, were cancelled.
3. Sinai’s marinas and fishing anchorages were shut down and owners warned that any putting to sea would be shot.
4. Egyptian-Israeli border terminals, including the one shared with Gaza Palestinians in Rafah, were closed.
5. The tunnels running from Egypt to Sinai under the Suez Canal were closed.
6. Roadblocks are holding up traffic on Sinai’s roads. As a result, hundreds of Israeli trippers are also prevented from leaving.
7. Cairo has cancelled commercial and private flights from Cairo to Sharm el-Sheikh and back until further notice.
8. Stringent and protracted checks run on passengers have slowed down the landing and takeoff of commercial airliners at Egyptian airports, including Cairo International.
Egypt has approached Israel with a request to renegotiate provisions of their 12-year old peace accords which bar Egyptian military forces from Sinai. The Cairo government intends deploying military units to drive out al Qaeda, Hizballah and other terrorist and lawless elements which have made strategic peninsula their stamping ground.

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