Two rockets fired across Egyptian border at Israeli resort city


An Israeli policeman inspects the site of a rocket explosion in the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat. (NOA ELIYAHU/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
April 17, 2013

Two rockets fired from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula landed on the outskirts of the Red Sea resort city of Eilat in southern Israel on Wednesday, causing no casualties or damage, Israeli police said.

After two explosions were heard and warning sirens went off in the city, police found the remains of one rocket near a neighborhood under construction and a second in an open area farther away, according to residents and police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. The local airport was briefly closed.

A battery of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system that was recently positioned in the Eilat area was not activated to intercept the rockets, the army said, citing unspecified “operational circumstances.”

An al-Qaeda-inspired group, the Mujahideen Shura Council, claimed responsibility for the attack in a posting on jihadist Web sites, saying it had fired two Grad rockets at Eilat. The group also has claimed responsibility for previous rocket strikes on Israel from the Gaza Strip and for a cross-border attack from Sinai.

Extremist Islamist groups have become increasingly active in Sinai, where lawlessness has spread since the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Gunmen have attacked a number of times across Egypt’s border with Israel, including an assault in August 2011 that left eight Israelis dead.

After Wednesday’s rocket strike, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in London for the funeral of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, held phone consultations with defense officials “to discuss how to respond to the firing,” his office said.

Amos Gilad, a top Defense Ministry official, told Israel Radio that Israel would be in contact with Egyptian officials and that “all relevant capabilities” would be used to prevent further rocket firings from Sinai, which he said were intended to “complicate our relations with the Egyptians.”

Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979, and despite the rise of an Islamist-led government in Cairo, security contacts between the two countries have continued and even intensified, Gilad said.

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