Thousands of Israelis Flee Egypt

Thousands of frightened Israeli tourists rushed back home Friday from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula after car bombs ripped through two Egyptian beach resorts crowded with Israeli visitors.

Many Israeli tourists complained bitterly about the Egyptian authorities, who they said prevented tourists from leaving their hotels after the blasts and delayed them at the border.

However, Egyptian government spokesman Magdy Rady denied there were any delays in allowing the Israelis in.

"There was no such a thing — no delay at all. Don't believe the Israelis," Rady told the AP.

Yitzhak Chai, the manager of the Israeli side of the border crossing, said about 6,000 Israelis crossed back home Friday, and he believed another 6,000 Israeli tourists were still in the Sinai.

Thousands of Israelis were spending the weeklong Jewish holiday of Sukkot (search) in the Sinai despite last month's warnings by the Israeli government there was a high probability of a terror attack on Israeli tourists in the area.

On Thursday night, bombs ripped through the Taba Hilton (search), a luxury hotel just south of the Israeli border, and at the Ras Shitan (search) resort of beach huts.

Vicky Arazi, 30, a resident of Tel Aviv, said she usually does not pay attention to official warnings.

"There are always warnings, usually nothing happens," she said after crossing back into Israel at Taba. "This time something happened."

Charly Bonen flew to Eilat early Friday to meet his 24-year-old daughter, who was on her way back from the Sinai.

"I warned her, I'm not ashamed to say it I begged her not to go," he said.

However, she insisted.

Heinz Metler, 54, said he was staying at a Sinai beach resort when he heard the blast in Taba, 12 miles to the north.

Metler said he quickly returned to his beach bungalow with his family and turned off the lights, to avoid attracting attention in case more attackers were in the area. He kept in touch with fellow Israelis through cell phone text messages.

At daybreak, Metler and his family made their way to Taba. He said the Egyptian authorities were unhelpful.

"They did absolutely nothing. At the border, we were delayed," he said.

Udi Natan, 29, who also stayed at a resort south of Taba, said there was an Egyptian roadblock outside his hotel, and Egyptian police tried to prevent Israeli tourists from leaving. Natan said he simply walked through the checkpoint and hitched a ride with an Israeli motorist heading north.

Shimon Romah, an Israeli fire chief, said rescue workers lost precious time because they were unable to bring heavy equipment to Taba for several hours.

"This was just a travesty, because these were four critical hours," Romah told Israel Radio.

Firefighters and medics were allowed to cross Taba on foot.