Two car bombs exploded at the entrance to the Hilton Taba Hotel and a suicide bomber blew up at the hotel's beach front, an area designated for children maritime activities.
A combined bomb and shooting attack took place in two restaurants usually frequented by Israelis in Ras Al-Satan.
"The number of dead is not final yet. The Egyptian authorities are holding nine bodies, two of which, as we speak are being returned to Israel. In addition we spotted seven bodies among the hotel ruins in Taba that have yet to be extricated. We believe the fatalities will be higher and up until now we know that 38 Israelis are missing and are seeking to determine whether they are among the wounded or dead," he told reporters at a briefing at the Taba terminal crossing.
26 Magen David Adom ambulances and 60 Israeli paramedics are still in Egypt assisting the wounded and trying to negotiate with Egyptian officials the possibility of transporting the bodies of two Israelis to Israel. It remains unknown why Egypt is not allowing the transfer of the bodies to Israel.
However, Egyptian officials Friday morning allowed the Home Front Command to transport heavy mechanical equipment and rescue personnel to Taba in order to begin clearing collapsed structures and start searching for survivors among the rubble. 38 bodies remain trapped in the rubble, Israeli rescue officials said.
Eight people were removed alive from the rubble.
Israeli paramedics operating in Taba reported that the bodies of dead Israelis were looted; their valuables and wallets were stolen.
The IDF has raised the alert level across the country following the attacks.
The first explosion was initially believed to be caused by two booby-trapped trucks and occurred around 10:00 p.m. at the Hilton Hotel in Taba on the Red Sea, near the Israel-Egypt border. Searches showed the engine of a car in the hotel's lobby, Army Radio reported.
Two smaller explosions occurred soon after in Ras a-Satan, a beach resort near Nuweiba south of Taba. Reports say two Israelis were killed in the attack at Ras a-Satan, and 40 people were wounded. The site, some 40 minutes from the border, is visited frequently by Israelis.
Kobi Zaza, a paramedic with Ofek, told The Jerusalem Post his ambulance had to wait over an hour at the Egyptian border because the eight wounded Israelis in his ambulance were not carrying identification papers. Despite their agony and pain the wounded were asked to sign their names and provide their passport numbers before being allowed to leave Egypt.
Zaza said that since the Egyptian are only allowing six ambulances at a time to cross into Egypt, Israeli paramedics have been evacuating eight to ten wounded in an ambulance at a time.
Four hours after the blast collapsed a 10-story wing of the hotel, Israel's military was in command of the scene, said the army spokeswoman, Brig. Gen. Ruth Yaron, but there were delays in sending in Israeli forces and rescue workers. Yaron, the Israeli army spokeswoman, said Israeli Brig. Gen. Efi Idan "took command over the event in Taba" four hours after the blast. She complained, "We still have some trouble in sending over all of the forces and their equipment to Taba and I hope this will be sorted out soon." "The whole front of the hotel has collapsed. There are dozens of people on the floor, lots of blood. It is very tense," witness Yigal Vakni told Army Radio. "I am standing outside of the hotel, the whole thing is burning and they have nothing to put it out with."
The Hilton Hotel in Taba is frequented by Israelis traveling to Sinai and many Israelis arrived there over the past days of the Succot and Simchat Torah holidays. Itzik Chai, general manager of the Taba Crossing, said all Israeli medical units have gone through the border, and that some of the ambulances have gone further south than Taba. Everyone will be able to get through, with or without a passport, Chai said.
According to a report on Channel 2, Egyptian border guards are not allowing Israeli soldiers operating with the Home Front Command rescue crews from entering Egypt through the Taba crossing in their IDF uniforms. Home Front Command is considering dressing the soldiers in civilian clothing to allow quick access the Taba Hotel, where some people are still feared trapped under the rubble.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom asked that Egypt allow Israeli helicopters land in Sinai to evacuate the wounded. Egyptian officials have still not allowed the helicopters to reach the area. Shalom also asked that Israelis be allowed to pass in and out of Sinai without passport and security checks, to allow a quick return of Israelis back to the country and immediate entrance of medical personnel and Israeli officials into Sinai.
Initially the Israel National News reported that Hamas had posted a claim for responsibility on their website but there have been no further confirmations. The Jerusalem Post reports this:
The deadly blast at the Hilton hotel in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Taba on the border with Israel was claimed by the previously unknown "World Islamist Group", in a telephone call to AFP in Jerusalem.
"Jamaa Al-Islamiya Al-Alamiya (World Islamist Group) claims responsibility for the explosion at the Taba Hotel, carried out in revenge for the Palestinian and Arab martyrs dying in Palestine and Iraq," the caller said. "Jamaa will carry out a series of martyr operations (suicide attacks) during the month of Ramadan to avenge these martyrs," he said.
Debkafile posted this:
Initial Egyptian investigation of quadruple car bombings at three Sinai sites Thursday night points to co-production orchestrated by Iran - to which explosives traced - organized by Hizballah and carried out by Saudi al Qaeda bomb-teams. Method recalls al Qaeda’s 1996 bombing attacks on Khobar Towers and 2003 Istanbul strikes. Israel’s warning to Israeli tourists to stay away from Sinai based on intelligence of Hizballah plot. Israelis and Egyptians were twin targets.