JERUSALEM — Israel closed its Taba border crossing to the Sinai peninsula Monday after warnings by its antiterrorism office of an imminent militant attack there. It also urged its citizens to leave Egypt hours before the start of the Passover holiday, when Sinai is a popular destination for Israelis.
Soon after the announcement, sirens wailed in parts of southern Israel, alerting residents to a rocket attack. The military said a rocket fired from Sinai exploded in southern Israel, hitting a greenhouse but causing no injuries. The Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack.
Yisrael Katz, Israel’s transportation and intelligence minister, said Monday there was intelligence regarding a potential terror attack against tourists in the Sinai peninsula. The crossing remains open for those wanting to return from Egypt.
The border closure comes a day after militants in Egypt bombed two churches, killing dozens of Christian worshipers during Palm Sunday ceremonies.
In the wake of those attacks, Israel’s antiterrorism office called on all Israeli tourists in Sinai to return home immediately and asked Israelis planning trips to the Sinai to cancel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement Monday sending Israel’s condolences to the families of those who were murdered in yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Egypt and wishing a quick and full recovery to the wounded.
The Israeli government said intelligence information shows increased activity by Islamic State militants in Sinai. It adds that with the Islamic State losing ground in Iraq and Syria, there is renewed motivation to carry out terror attacks in different arenas at this time.
Israel called on its citizens to leave Egypt on the eve of the Passover holiday that commemorates the biblical story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt.
Israel on Monday also closed off access to the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, a routine security measure for the weeklong holiday.
The festival is widely celebrated in Israel even among otherwise nonreligious Jews. Southern Sinai, with its pristine beaches and Red Sea coral reefs, has traditionally been a popular Israeli tourist destination — especially for secular Israelis during the Passover holiday.
Israel mostly shuts down after sundown for the holiday, as families and friends gather for Seder, the ritual multicourse meal at which the story of the exodus from Egypt is discussed in detail so that the tradition is preserved throughout the generations.