Thursday, April 18, 2013

'Code Red' Sounds in Eilat, two Grads Fired at City

by Yaakov Lappin, Staff, Reuters

Islamic Militant group in Sinai claims responsibility; one rocket falls at building site, second falls in open area.

Landing site of rocket in Eilat, April 17, 2013.
Landing site of rocket in Eilat, April 17, 2013.  
Photo: Spokesperson police southern region
At least two Grad rockets fired from the Sinai area hit Israel's southernmost city of Eilat on Wednesday morning, causing no injuries but some damage.   

An Islamist militant group in the Sinai Peninsula Magles Shoura al-Mujahadin claimed responsibility for the attack on its website on Wednesday saying it targeted Eilat with two Grad missiles and then withdrew safely.

One of the rockets fell in an open area and one landed in a construction site. Israeli media also reported a possible third missile landing on the outskirts of the city. A number of local residents were reportedly being treated for shock.

An Eilat police spokesman told the Israeli media that sirens were heard in the city at around 9 am, followed by several explosions.

Two rockets also landed in the neighboring Jordanian resort city of Aqaba, Israel Radio reported, although later quoted Jordanian authorities as saying that no rockets had fallen in the city.

Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said bomb disposal crews located the rockets in different locations, and that air traffic in the area had been curtailed. "We shut down the airport for security reasons. We'll take additional precautions in the event of more rocket sirens," he told The Jerusalem Post. The airport was later returned to full operations, Israel Radio said.

The IDF deployed an Iron Dome battery outside the southern resort city at the beginning of the month, in anticipation of possible rocket fire from the Sinai peninsula.

In Sinai, Egyptian security forces began a search of the border area to investigate the Israeli claims.

"There is not yet any evidence indicating that these rockets were fired from Egypt," an Egyptian security source said.

Speaking shortly after the rocket strikes, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom told the Israeli Jewish Congress that the attack illustrates the need for Israel to be responsible for its own defense needs.

"Yesterday we celebrated Independence Day, and this morning we received a painful reminder of the neighborhood in which we live," Shalom said. "The attack reinforces the need for us to safeguard our own security, and not put our destiny in the hands of others. The year 2013 will be a decisive one with difficult and complex threats.".

Eilat Mayor Halevi vowed that the Red Sea resort city would "slowly return to normal" after the strikes. This is not the first time that the resort town has been hit by rocket fire. There were three such attacks in 2012 alone, although none caused any injuries or serious damage.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke from London with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Eilat Mayor Yitzhak Halevi.

He also held security consultations over the phone regarding the best way to respond to the rocket fire.

Tovah Lazaroff and Yasser Okbi of contributed to this report.

Yaakov Lappin, Staff, Reuters


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