After Deadly Church Bombings in Egypt, Israel Closes Southern Border With Sinai Peninsula

Relatives mourn victims of the Palm Sunday bombings during a funeral at the Monastery of Saint Mina in Alexandria, Egypt, on April 10, 2017. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)

A day after deadly Islamic State bombings struck two Egyptian churches, Israel closed its southern border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Monday and urged Israeli holiday-makers to leave Egypt amid worries of another round of militant attacks.

Shortly after the announcement, Israel’s military said that a rocket fired from Sinai exploded in southern Israel. No injuries or damage were reported, and there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strike.

But the incident — and the border closure — underscored concerns over the growing strength and boldness of Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate, which is based in Sinai.

In its statement, the Israeli government said its intelligence indicates “increased activity” by the Islamic State in Sinai and a “desire to commit terrorist attacks against tourists in Sinai, including Israelis, in the immediate term.”

The border closure appeared triggered by the bombing of Coptic churches on Sunday in the northern Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria, killing at least 44 people and injuring more than 100. The attacks, carried out by suicide bombers and claimed by the Islamic State, came as worshipers gathered for Palm Sunday ceremonies.

On Monday, dozens of funerals were being held in both cities for the victims.

Hundreds of black-clad mourners joined processions of wooden coffins and beating drums. Many claimed the government has failed to protect Egypt’s Christian minority, which accounts for about 10 percent of the population.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan