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Bombs kill 26 in Egypt resort full of Israelis

Taba (Egypt), Oct 8 (Reuters): Bombs killed at least 26 people in Egyptian Red Sea resorts packed with Israeli tourists, sending thousands fleeing home across the border. Israel said it suspected the al Qaida was behind the attacks.

The toll looked certain to rise today. Israeli officials said dozens were missing and bodies remained buried in the rubble of the Taba Hilton, on Egypt's border with Israel, after a truck bomb sheared off a 10-storey wing of the luxury hotel.

The attack was followed by blasts at two backpacker beaches further south on the Sinai Peninsula, crowded with Israelis vacationing during a week-long Jewish holiday despite official warnings they might be targeted by Islamic militants.

The explosions were the first major attacks on tourists in Egypt since 58 foreigners were killed in Luxor in 1997.

At least 19 of the dead in yesterday's blasts were Israelis, an Israeli newspaper website said. Six Egyptians were among the dead, Israel Radio reported, and one Russian was killed. Italian authorities said two Italian sisters were among the missing.

Some 120 people were wounded as normally placid vacation spots were plunged into nightmares of smoke, blood and screams.

A truck loaded with explosives rammed into the lobby of the 430-room hotel. Some guests fell to their deaths. Moments later, a suicide bomber detonated another blast near the swimming pool.

'There were a lot of people on the ground. We couldn't tell in the chaos if they were dead or not,' said Israeli Ronit Levi, who had been a hotel guest. 'It was mayhem.'

Firefighters said the ceiling of the hotel dining room, where tables were set for dinner, had collapsed and that bodies could be seen under rubble in the ruins of the hotel. Thousands of dazed, frightened holidaymakers streamed back over the border into Israel, among them an unconscious child and a young woman, her arm wrapped in a blood-soaked bandage.

'There will be will be no compromising with terror. It will be fought with every means possible without restraint,' Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vowed during an emergency cabinet meeting.

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