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Israel shuts airport at Egypt border, citing security

Reuters

August 8, 2013 | 11:42 am

Israel took the rare step of shutting its southernmost Eilat airport near Egypt's Sinai peninsula for two hours on Thursday citing security concerns, military officials said.

A military spokeswoman said the airfield in the Red Sea city was shut "due to security assessments". Two hours later a military official and Israel Radio said it had been reopened.

The reports said Israel's military chief of staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz had made the decision after an assessment, but gave no further details.

The airport in the city wedged between Jordan and Egypt, brings tourists to Israel's Eilat resort and the closure followed heightened concerns about Islamist militant activity in the neighboring Sinai.

Air traffic often has been disrupted at Eilat by desert winds but the air strip has seldom been shut altogether.

Israel said last month that it had boosted its rocket defenses near its southern border to counter possible attacks from militants deeply opposed to the Jewish state.

A rocket fired from Sinai landed in Israel in July and its remnants were found in hills north of Eilat, which abuts Egypt to the west and Jordan to the east.

Violence in the Sinai has surged since the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on July 3, with almost daily assaults against Egyptian forces reported in the desert expanse.

Egypt's army said on Wednesday it had killed 60 militants in Sinai in the month since Mursi's ouster, and that an additional 64 militants were injured in the Sinai campaign between July 5 and August 4.

The militants have killed around 40 people including Egyptian security personnel in this period, Egyptian medical officials said.

Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Omar Fahmy, Maggie Fick, Shadia Nasralla in Cairo; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Michael Roddy

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