Egypt arrests 17 Palestinian militants in Sinai over weekend
Two arrested near Gaza border carrying bomb; arrests thwart Hamas plan to attack Israelis in Sinai.
Egyptian security forces arrested 17 Palestinian militants in Sinai over the weekend, including two carrying a bomb Saturday who were trying to sneak further into the Sinai Peninsula, security and policy officials said.
Authorities arrested Hani Hamdan, 26, and his younger brother Rami, 21, in el-Massoura village, some 4 kilometers west of Egypt's border with Gaza, said a Sinai security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
The pair had managed to slip through the border with the Gaza Strip, security and police officials said.
Army Radio quoted Egyptian officials as saying that men arrested Friday were planning to attack Israeli tourists in Sinai.
A police official in Cairo, speaking anonymously for the same reason, confirmed the arrest of Hani and Rami Hamdan, adding that the two were trying to reach the town of el-Arish, some 35 kilometers from the border, and move from there into southern Sinai where several beach resorts are located.
A northern Sinai intelligence official said Friday that Egyptian forces were looking for four Palestinians who slipped into the country from Gaza and were suspected of planning suicide attacks in Sinai. But it was unclear if the two men arrested Saturday were the same ones Egypt had been tracking.
Saturday's arrests raise to at least 17 the number of Palestinians arrested over the past few days carrying weapons and explosives near the border and other remote parts of the Sinai desert.
The Sinai intelligence official said Friday that 12 of those arrested were members of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that seized control of Gaza last June.
The group consisted of two cells arrested separately as they attempted to sneak out of el-Arish carrying explosives and machine guns, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Meanwhile, a search was going ahead for another group of militants who escaped into mountains carrying explosives and weapons, apparently planning an attack against Israel.
A senior Egyptian security official announced that authorities were searching for four Palestinian militants who had infiltrated Sinai from Gaza, apparently aiming to carry out a terror attack at one of the area's tourist resorts.
The official added that Bedouin scouts had been recruited by the Egyptian authorities to assist in the manhunt.
Egyptian officials have expressed concern that militants could attempt to sneak into the country ever since Hamas blew open the border wall with Gaza on Jan. 23. Israel issued a travel warning to its citizens last week, advising them not to visit Sinai, the vast desert peninsula between the Gaza border and Cairo, for fear of attacks by militants.
Egypt has attempted to reseal the border, but thousands of Palestinians have continued to pour into the country.