Israel shuts Eilat airport near Egypt border

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 08, 2013 12:21 PM

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel shut its southernmost Eilat airport near Egypt's Sinai peninsula on Thursday until further notice because of security concerns, the military said.

"Due to security assessments, the Israeli army has instructed Eilat Airport to cancel all departures and arrivals," a military spokeswoman said, giving no further details.

The airport brings tourists to Israel's Red Sea Eilat resort and the closure follows heightened concerns about Islamist militant activity in the neighboring Sinai.

Israel said last month that it had boosted its rocket defenses near its southern border to counter possible attacks from militants deeply opposed to the Jewish state.

A rocket fired from Sinai landed in Israel in July and its remnants were found in hills north of Eilat, which abuts Egypt to the west and Jordan to the east.

Violence in the Sinai has surged since the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on July 3, with almost daily assaults against Egyptian forces reported in the desert expanse.

Israel had already invested heavily in security around Eilat since the fall of U.S.-backed Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011, which triggered concerns about the future of a 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, Israel's first such deal with an Arab country.

Earlier this year Israel completed a 250-km (160-mile) barrier with Egypt, stretching from Eilat's outskirts to the Palestinian Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean.

Other measures being taken to defend against jihadists in Sinai include an innovative, Israeli-designed missile deflector being fitted aboard planes.

(Additional reporting by Dan Williams; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; editing by Crispian Balmer)