JERUSALEM, Israel – On the eve of the Passover, the Israeli government sent condolences to Egypt and called on Israelis visiting the Egyptian Sinai Desert to return home immediately on Monday.
The statements followed ISIS' claim of responsibility for bombing two churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday, killing more than 40 Christians.
"Israel sends condolences to the families of those who were murdered in yesterday's terrorist attacks in Egypt, and wishes for a quick and full recovery to the wounded," a government statement read. "The world must unite and fight terrorism everywhere."
In a separate move earlier in the day, Israel's National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Bureau (NSCCTB) issued a warning.
"Increased activity by the 'Sinai Province' [affiliated with Islamic State] in recent months has also found expression against Israel in its desire to commit terrorist attacks against tourists in Sinai, including [against] Israelis, in the immediate term," the NSCCTB said Monday in a statement.
The statement said that due to "the increased severity and immediacy of the threat", Yisrael Katz, who doubles as Israel's Transportation and Intelligence minister, decided to close the Taba border crossing for Israelis to enter Egypt until the end of the Passover holiday next week. But he noted that Israelis would be allowed to return home.
Katz also recommended Israelis leave the Sinai immediately and return to Israel. He urged family members to contact their loved ones and "update them regarding the acute threat."
He also emphasized that Israel was closing the border into Sinai "for their own protection" and urged them not to go to the crossing and to listen to instructions.
Ironically, many Israelis like to visit the Sinai during Passover, a holiday marking the Jewish people's departure from Egypt thousands of years ago, as chronicled in the Bible.
As if to emphasize the warning, terrorists in the Sinai desert launched a rocket at southern Israel on Monday morning. It landed in a hot house, causing damage but no injuries, though one person was treated for hysteria.
Israelis are hoping for a quiet holiday. As was the case in the Egyptian church bombings on Palm Sunday, terrorist elements tend to step up attacks during Jewish and Christian holiday seasons.