by Jonah Mandel
JERUSALEM, April 17, 2013 (AFP)
At least two rockets fired from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula exploded in the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat on Wednesday, causing no casualties, the Israeli army and police said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which prompted telephone consultations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — in London for the funeral for the late British premier Margaret Thatcher — and the security establishment on “how to react to the (rocket) fire,” his office said.
Israeli military sources said the vaunted Iron Dome anti-missile system, which was recently deployed around Eilat, did not engage to intercept the rockets.
“We’ve found two explosion sites in the city, we’ve also closed off the airport as a precaution,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, saying one landed in “an open area close to one of the neighbourhoods”.
He said the sirens had sounded and there were no initial reports of any casualties.
Police said Eilat’s tiny international airport had been briefly closed down but later reopened. “The airport is back to normal at the moment, and police are assessing the security situation in the city,” Rosenfeld said.
The military spokeswoman said both rockets had struck open areas.
“There were two rockets fired from Sinai, both landed in open spaces,” she said.
Earlier this month, the Israeli press reported that a battery of the Iron Dome system had been deployed in the area over fears of such an attack from Sinai.
But a security source said it did not activate.
“Due to operational circumstances the battery located in the area did not intercept the incoming rockets,” the source said, without explaining why.
Israeli media reports also said two rockets had landed in the nearby resort town of Aqaba in Jordan, in a report denied by security officials in Amman.
“All military and security services in Aqaba have confirmed that nothing happened in Aqaba. It was only on the other side,” Amer Sartawi, spokesman for the Public Security Department, told AFP.
At least two Aqaba residents contacted by AFP said they were unaware of any rockets landing in the city.
Eilat lies 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.
Last April, a rocket fired from Sinai hit Eilat but caused no casualties, with police finding another unexploded rocket near the city days later.
In August, another two rockets rocked Eilat, again injuring no-one.
That attack was claimed by an Islamist group calling itself Ansar Beit al-Maqdis which said it had fired two Grad rockets at the city.
Since the collapse of the regime of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, Israel’s border with Sinai has seen multiple security incidents, with militants using the lawless peninsula to stage attacks on the Jewish state.
The most serious incident was in August 2011, when gunmen infiltrated southern Israel and staged a series of ambushes that killed eight Israelis.
Over the past few years, there has been intermitted rocket fire on Eilat from Sinai.
So far, no-one has been injured but in August 2010, one landed in Aqaba, killing a taxi driver.