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Israel ratchets up alert along Egyptian border

(Xinhua)

16:49, August 30, 2011

JERUSALEM, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- Israel Defense Forces (IDF) units and other security agencies are on high alert Tuesday morning, in preparation for a potential large-scale militant attack coming from the Sinai Peninsula across the Egyptian border.

"The terror threat in the Eilat area is substantial and well- founded," said Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, the director of political- military affairs at the Defense Ministry.

The warnings, which include possible kidnappings of soldiers and civilians by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda- affiliated militants in Sinai, are reminiscent of a combined shooting attacks carried out on motorists along a border road near Eilat 12 days ago, which left eight Israeli civilians and soldiers dead and dozens wounded.

"'Alert' means having information of clear intent to murder Israelis, just because they are Israelis," Gilad said, according to Army radio.

Israelis are also jittery over Monday's attack by a Palestinian carjacking and stabbing outside a Tel Aviv nightclub filled with more than 1,000 high school clubbers, which wounded eight.

In light of the warnings, the IDF boosted forces and intelligence along the border from the Gaza Strip 200 kilometers south to Eilat, a resort city on the Red Sea. Additionally, two roads running along the Egyptian border, Route 12 and 10, have been closed to civilian traffic. The previous assault took place on road 12, just north of Eilat.

The army had intelligence information of a potential attack, and prepositioned counter-terrorism forces in the area, but did not close the road to civilian traffic.

As well, the Defense Ministry has marked both routes indefinitely off-limits to some of its employees, fearing their possible abduction and exposure of classified information. The directive, issued by the Director of Security for the Defense Establishment (DSDE), a body tasked mainly with guarding state secrets, applies to the ministry's military personnel and civilian employees with high-security clearance who are exposed to sensitive information on a regular basis.

In related news, Israeli officials said in recent days that they have detected SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles and rocket- propelled grenades (RPGs) reaching Gaza overland from Libya via Egypt.

"We've been seeing more SA-7s and RPGs coming across," one official told the Ynet news site, but estimated that the weapons were not "a major qualitative enhancement for them."

Palestinian militants belonging to the People's Resistance Committees, according to Israel, were behind the Eilat attack, and used a version of an RPG which they fired at a passenger car, killing all its four occupants.

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