By Hazel Ward EILAT, ISRAEL
From the Middle East Times website.

Thousands of terrified Israelis on Friday fled back across the border from Egypt after a series of deadly blasts in the Sinai peninsula that left scenes of devastation some likened to 9/11.

"We're scared. We no longer need to stay here," said one Israeli woman who had hired a taxi to get her back "to Israel as fast as possible."

Her seven traveling companions had mobile telephones glued to their ears as they tried to reassure worried relatives.

An explosion ripped through the Taba Hilton, a vast hotel between the shores of the Red Sea and the mountains of the Sinai peninsula, late on Thursday, followed by more blasts in two other resorts down the coast road.

Israel's public radio and medics said on Friday that 26 people had been killed in the bomb attacks.

Dozens of Israeli-registered cars packed with holidaymakers queued up at the Taba border point between Egypt and Israel, crossing back into the nearby Israeli resort town of Eilat at an average of five cars a minute.

"There is a plan to send buses to help them evacuate, those who want to," foreign ministry spokeswoman Rachel Shani said, quoted by the online version of ‘Ha’aretz’ newspaper.

Israeli media reported that many tourists were also walking the few hundred meters (yards) from the Hilton to the border crossing, which already had extra staff working to cope with a larger flow of Israeli tourists traveling to spend Sukkot (Tabernacles) holidays in Egypt.

"There was a terrible explosion. In a matter of seconds everything had collapsed, it was awful," said Liron, a 24-year-old Israeli, as she recounted scenes of devastation at a Red Sea hotel left in ruins after the powerful car bomb blast.

"Half of the hotel fell in," she said, her voice trembling. "People were screaming, everyone was hysterical."

Some Israeli media reports likened the scenes at Taba to the events of September 11, 2001, in New York after hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center.

"There were whole families who threw themselves out of the windows rather than perish in the flames," one woman, her eyes streaming with tears and her hair in disarray, told Israeli public television.

"I saw bodies thrown into the sea," one firefighter told journalists after helping put out the fire at the hotel, which was built by the Israelis in 1982. "There was blood everywhere."

Resorts dotted along the Sinai's coast, where desert mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for the palm-fringed beaches and blue waters of the Red Sea, have remained popular holiday spots for Israelis since the territory was handed back to Egypt as part of a 1979 peace deal.

AFP