EILAT, Israel (AP) — An explosion tore through a resort
hotel in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula where Israelis were
vacationing at the end of a Jewish holiday yesterday night, killing
at least 35 people and wounding more than 160, officials said.

Janna Hutz
An injured man is wheeled into the hospital of the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat yesterday after being wounded in a strong explosion at a Hilton hotel in Taba. (AP PHOTO)

Israeli security officials said a car bomb caused the explosion,
which was followed by two smaller blasts at other tourist sites in
the Sinai. Witnesses gave reports that car bombs caused all three,
but Egyptian officials said they had no evidence of terrorism.

The huge blast collapsed a 10-story wing of the luxury Hilton
hotel built by Israel when it controlled Taba from 1967 to
1989.

Israelis described a chaotic scene as the explosion brought the
top floors of the hotel crashing into the lobby.

Meir Frajun said his three children were playing one floor below
the lobby when the blast tore through the building. He went down
but found only two of them.

“Everything was filled with smoke,” Frajun told The
Associated Press after crossing into the nearby Israeli resort of
Eilat. “We were hysterically looking for the child. In the
end we found him sitting outside with an Arab guest of the
hotel.”

Four hours after the blast, Israel’s military took command
of the scene, according to the army spokeswoman, Brig. Gen. Ruth
Yaron, but there were delays in sending Israeli forces and rescue
workers across the tense border.

Israel Radio reported early today that at least 35 people were
killed in the blast.

The explosions came a month after the Israeli government urged
citizens not to visit Egypt, citing a “concrete” terror
threat to tourists in an area. The warning, issued Sept. 9 by the
counterterrorism center in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s
office, identified the Sinai Peninsula as the target of a potential
attack.

The initial blast, about 10 p.m., rocked the Hilton hotel in the
Taba resort, only yards from the Israeli border.

“The whole front of the hotel has collapsed. There are
dozens of people on the floor, lots of blood,” 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.”

A spokesman for the rescue workers, Yerucham Mendola, said
others were trapped in the debris.

A car rental manager at the Hilton, Mohammed Saleh, said he was
in the storeroom and couldn’t see where the explosion
originated but that several people at the hotel claimed it was
caused by a car bomb outside the reception area. Some witnesses
reported seeing the wreckage of a car.

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