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Two Rockets Hit Eilat in South Israel, No Injuries Reported

April 17 (Bloomberg) -- Militants fired two rockets that struck the southern Israeli city of Eilat, increasing concerns about security in the area bordering Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

A radical Islamic group claimed responsibility for the attack today on the Red Sea resort town, which the Israeli military said caused no injuries or damage. Israel said the two rockets were launched from Sinai. Egypt denied the rockets were fired from its territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in London today to attend the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, consulted with security officials on how to respond, according to a text message from his office.

There were conflicting reports over whether rockets also struck the nearby Jordanian resort town of Aqaba.

The Shura Council of al-Mujahidin in Jerusalem claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement posted on a website used by Islamist factions. The Salafi group has claimed credit for several rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel during the past month.

Open Areas

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the rockets fired today were launched from Sinai and hit open areas in Eilat. The spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, did not provide details on how the military reached that conclusion. Rockets fired from Sinai have hit Eilat in the past.

Brig-Gen Mohamed Saeed, head of criminal investigations in northern Sinai, denied the rockets were fired from Egypt. The security presence in northern Sinai was raised yesterday following the killing of a police officer, Saeed said in a phone interview.

A spokesman for the Egyptian presidency, Omar Amer, said Egypt was looking into the Eilat attack and that it was too early to reach conclusions.

Egypt’s Middle East News Agency cited Jordanian security officials denying regional media reports that rockets struck Aqaba.

Israeli officials have warned of growing lawlessness in Sinai since the overthrow of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak more than two years ago. They say Palestinian gunmen from the Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip are among the Islamic militant groups operating in the desert peninsula.

Both Israel and Egypt have taken steps to improve security along the once-porous border area. Israel recently completed construction of a security fence and earlier this month it deployed an Iron Dome rocket-defense system in Eilat.

The Egyptian government boosted its forces in Sinai after 16 soldiers were killed in a clash with militants on the Egypt-Israel border last August.

Israel’s Army Radio reported that the Eilat airport was temporarily closed after today’s attack.

To contact the reporter on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at cbendavid@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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