The explosions coincided with the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah at the end of Sukkot, when thousands of Israelis vacation along the coast of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. Israeli authorities estimate as many as 10,000 Israelis were on holiday in the Sinai, according to Reuters.
The first blast, which occurred about 10 p.m., caused the front of the Hilton hotel in the Taba resort — just yards from the Israeli border — to collapse.
“There are dozens of people on the floor, lots of blood. It is very tense,” witness Yigal Vakni told Israeli’s army radio. “I am standing outside of the hotel, the whole thing is burning and they have nothing to put it out with.”
Israeli security officials told army radio they were convinced a car bomb caused the blast. The Israeli government warned citizens a month ago to avoid Egypt, citing a “concrete” terror threat to tourists.
But Egyptian officials said they had no evidence of terrorism, the Associated Press reported. Egyptian security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Taba explosion occurred among gas tanks in the kitchen of the hotel, which is next to the casino.
Two smaller blasts hit the area of Ras Shitan about midnight. Ras Shitan is a camping area near the town of Nuweiba south of Taba, witnesses said.
“I heard one very big explosion coming from Taba direction and then, after awhile, I heard two smaller explosions from Nuweiba,” said human rights activist Abdel Raziq, the AP reported.
An official at Taba Hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said his institution took in 27 bodies from the Taba explosion and two more from Ras Shitan.
Taba was the scene of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that led to interim self-rule agreements in the early 1990s. Israel and the Palestinians also held failed peace talks there in 2001, according to Reuters.