JERUSALEM, April 5, 2012 (AFP)
JERUSALEM, April 5, 2012 (AFP)
A rocket fired from the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula exploded in the Israeli Red Sea resort town of Eilat early on Thursday but caused no injuries or damage, a senior police official said.
Police in Eilat were put on the highest state of alert following the blast, which occurred shortly after midnight, officials said.
“This rocket, which was fired from Egypt, exploded in the town but did not cause any injuries or damage,” Eilat district police chief Ron Gertner told Israel’s army radio.
Gertner said a Grad rocket slammed into a construction site in the city, about 300 metres (yards) from a residential area, shortly after midnight (2100 GMT Wednesday).
In all, three loud blasts rocked the city, prompting hundreds of worried people to ring the emergency police number.
“Eilat residents heard three explosions in the night, but for the moment we have only found one rocket,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. Police were conducting searches to see if anything else had hit the town.
The Israeli army confirmed details of the incident.
“This rocket exploded in the town but there were no victims or damage,” a military spokeswoman said.
The blast occurred as thousands of Israeli and foreign tourists descended on the resort town to celebrate the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins at sundown on Friday.
Eilat resident Yossi Atia, told the website of the Haaretz daily he heard a blast and went out to look for what caused it, finding traces of the rocket just 150 metres from his home.
“I went out and looked for traces of the rocket. I searched for 40 minutes with torches until I found (them),” he told the website.
Yitzhak Halevy, mayor of Eilat, told army radio he had been holding talks with the security establishment about the deployment of a battery of the anti-rocket defence system, Iron Dome, which has proven effective at protecting residents of southern Israel from rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
He also said there had been no indication that people were leaving the resort town in the wake of the incident, and police confirmed they had not issued any special instructions or alerts to residents or tourists.
It was the first such firing since the collapse of the regime of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Since he was toppled, a wave of unrest has swept the restive Sinai Peninsula which borders on Israel.
In August 2011, a group of gunmen from the Sinai sneaked across the border and carried out a series of deadly shooting ambushes just north of Eilat, killing eight Israelis.
In the ensuing search for the gunmen, Israeli troops shot dead six Egyptian police officers along the border, sparking a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
A year earlier, several rockets fired from the Sinai, which were apparently aimed at Eilat, slammed into the nearby Jordanian port of Aqaba, killing one person and wounding five others.
A similar attack occurred in April 2011 when two military-grade rockets struck Aqaba, one hitting an empty warehouse and the other landing in the Red Sea near the Israeli border.
And in August 2005, three Katyusha rockets were fired at Aqaba in an attack claimed by a group linked to Al-Qaeda.
The two Red Sea ports lie on the northernmost point of the Gulf of Aqaba, a narrow stretch of water bordered on one side by the Sinai and the other by Saudi Arabia and Jordan.