Rockets fired at southern Israeli city of Eilat; one hits Jordan killing 1, wounding 4

By Aron Heller, AP
Monday, August 2, 2010

Rockets fired at Israel, Jordan resorts; 1 dead

JERUSALEM — A string of rockets was fired early Monday toward the Israeli resort city Eilat, and one hit in neighboring Jordan, killing one person and wounding four, officials in both countries said.

The rockets appeared to have been fired from Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, an Israeli police spokesman said, though Egypt denied the claim.

It was the second such attack this year, following a similar volley in April that Israeli authorities say was also fired from Egypt.

Israel has warned repeatedly of Islamic militant activity in the Sinai, where suicide bombers killed dozens of people — including tourists and Israelis — in attacks on resorts between 2004 and 2006. Weapons smuggling is rife on the peninsula, where relations between Egyptian authorities and Bedouin have been tense.

A series of explosions were heard early Monday in the narrow coast of the Red Sea where Israel’s Eilat and the Jordanian city of Aqaba are located side by side, both popular tourist destinations.

The Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said the blasts were caused by rockets that were believed to have been fired from the Sinai. He said no one was injured in Eilat.

Eilat Mayor Meir Itzhak Halevi told Israel Radio there was no sign any of the rockets hit inside Eilat’s city limits. Israeli media reported that three rockets fell into the Red Sea and two in open spaces.

One rocket hit in Aqaba on a main street in front of the Intercontinental Hotel, killing a taxi driver, Jordanian Information Minister Ali Ayed said. Four other Jordanians were injured, Ayed said.

A taxi was destroyed in the blast, said witness Mohammad Shudeifat, who was on his way to work in the area when the rocket struck.

Following Monday’s attack, Egyptian police in Sinai launched an investigation but found no indication that the rocket fire came from their side of the border, Egyptian security officials said.

“Our reports show that no rockets were launched from Sinai. If Israel or Jordan are accusing us of this, they need to produce proof on video,” said one senior intelligence officer, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

Israel regularly issues travel warnings to its citizens to avoid Sinai, a popular vacation destination for Israelis. Earlier this year, in a rare move, Israel ordered all its citizens in Sinai to evacuate, saying it had concrete intelligence that militants were planning to abduct Israelis and possibly take them to the Gaza Strip.

Eilat, Israel’s only outlet on the Red Sea, has rarely been a target. In January 2007, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed three people in Eilat, the first ever to hit Israel’s southernmost city.

In April’s attack, a series of rockets were fired, most falling into the sea off Eilat but one flying into Jordan, hitting a warehouse without causing no injuries. Israeli police said that attack also came from the Sinai.

AP correspondent Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.

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