The death toll was likely to rise Friday as rescue workers shifted through the rubble of collapsed buildings. Israeli officials said bodies were buried underneath the rubble of the Taba Hilton and dozens of people were missing, Reuters reported.
Israeli military rescuer Gefan Naty told the Associated Press he didn’t believe that anyone buried in the rubble was alive.
“I don’t believe anyone is still alive. We just pulled out one child” about 10-years-old, who was dead, Naty said.
The Taba Hilton was hit hardest when a car bomb drove into the 430-room hotel, ripping off the outer rooms of the 10-story building. Soon after, two smaller bombs exploded in Ras Shitan, a backpacker camping area located about 35 miles south on the Sinai Peninsula.
One of the bombs at the camping grounds was intercepted by an Egyptian security guard and the bomb exploded away from the lodgings at the camp.
The bombings on Thursday were the first major attack on tourists in Egypt since 58 foreigners were killed in Luxor in 1997.
After the explosions, thousands of terrified Israeli tourists who were vacationing during the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah at the end of Sukkot fled home, crossing the Egyptian border into Eliat on Friday.
The scene at the Hilton was frantic, as the typically tranquil vacation spot became a scene of blood and smoke.
Hotel guests tied sheets and blankets to the Hilton’s balconies in an effort to flee the area. The burned shell of a vehicle remained in a meeting room of the hotel, while bottles, cans, business cards and personal items were scattered throughout the building, the AP reported.
“There were a lot of people on the ground. We couldn’t tell in the chaos if they were dead or not,” said Israeli Ronit Levi, a hotel guest. “It was mayhem.”
Most of the deaths occurred at the Hilton. The injured included more than 100 people and at least two Britons and “a few” Americans, according to the AP. Israel radio reported 14 of the dead were Israelis.
Israeli intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, blamed the bombings on the al-Qaida network. But Egyptian government spokesman Magdy Rady said it was too early to speculate.
Two terrorist groups claimed responsibility for the bombings but the claims could not be confirmed. A pro-al-Qaida Islamist group called Islamic Tawhid Brigades and the World Islamist Group, both previously unknown groups, said they committed the bombings.
But Israeli deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim believes the bombings appeared to be the “work of international terror groups like al-Qaida or branches of it.”
Although Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said it was too early to tell, Reuters reported that an Egyptian security source said the bombings were in line with previous works of militant Islamic groups.
“We are working on the assumption that an al-Qaida related group carried out the car bombings,” the source said according to Reuters.