Egypt focuses on who sold hotel blast explosives

EGYPT: Egyptian security officials said yesterday that a Bedouin tribesman had confessed to selling explosives that might have…

EGYPT: Egyptian security officials said yesterday that a Bedouin tribesman had confessed to selling explosives that might have been used in the attacks that targeted Israeli tourists in Sinai last week, but Israeli officials insisted last night that the Egyptians had no leads on who carried out the attacks writes Peter Hirschberg in Jerusalem.

Israeli and Egyptian soldiers, who worked side by side digging through the rubble of the devastated Hilton Hotel in Taba in search of the missing, wound up their rescue operation yesterday, with the final death toll in the two attacks reaching 32.

Twelve of these were Israelis, six were Egyptians, and the rest were tourists from Italy, Russia and several east European countries.

Egyptian security forces have rounded up dozens of Bedouin in the wake of the bombings, and an Egyptian investigator was yesterday quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the tribesman had said those purchasing the explosives had told him they were for use by Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The car bomb that exploded on Thursday night at the Taba Hilton, and the two that exploded almost simultaneously at the beach camp of Ras al-Satan further south, each contained 200 kgs of explosives.

One of the main working assumptions is that Bedouin who live in Sinai might have assisted in the attacks, but that the actual perpetrators came from Jordan or Saudi Arabia. The investigation has expanded to include not only Israeli and Egyptian security services, but also the US intelligence services as well as those in Amman and Riyadh. Israeli officials have spoken of the possibility of al-Qaeda involvement in the attacks, while Egyptian investigators have been looking into the possibility of Palestinian involvement.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombings, Israeli first-aid and rescue personnel had complained of being held up in their efforts to reach the site by Egyptian border officials. But yesterday most of the Israeli army personnel in the rescue operation spoke of rare co-operation with their Egyptian counterparts during the three-day rescue operation.

In Gaza, meanwhile, Israel continued an operation in the northern part of the Strip which was launched 11 days ago in a bid to stop the firing of makeshift rockets by militants into Israel. One Palestinian was killed and eight injured yesterday in the Jabalya refugee camp when an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a home next to a mosque known as a Hamas stronghold.

Palestinians said the dead man was a passing school teacher.