JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military shot down a rocket launched toward a Red Sea resort town near the border with Egypt on Tuesday, the army said.
It was the first time Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system successfully intercepted a rocket attack on the resort of Eilat, the military said. The incident came after days of heightened tension along the Egypt-Israel border.
The army said the rocket was intercepted early Tuesday and that there were no injuries. It didn’t provide more details and declined to comment on the origins of the projectile. An al-Qaida-inspired militant group based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Ansar Jerusalem, claimed responsibility for launching the rocket in an email to The Associated Press. The little known group is hostile to both Israel and Egypt and was behind an attack in August 2011 near Eilat that killed eight people.
In Cairo, Egypt’s state MENA news agency quoted an unnamed security official as saying authorities could not confirm that the rocket was launched from Sinai. The report said Egyptian forces were investigating.
Most Iron Dome batteries have been deployed along Israel’s border with Gaza, and the missile defense system intercepted rockets during Israel’s fighting with Gaza militants in 2012. Other batteries have been placed on Israel’s border with Lebanon.
Last Thursday, Israel briefly closed the Eilat airport in response to unspecified security warnings. The following day, five suspected Islamic militants were killed in Egypt’s volatile Sinai Peninsula, and a rocket launcher there was reportedly destroyed, according to Egyptian officials. Ansar Jerusalem said four of its men were killed in the strike and blamed the deaths on Israel. The discrepancy between the group’s death toll and the one offered by Egyptian authorities could not be reconciled.
Egyptian security officials attributed Friday’s strike to a drone fired from the Israeli side of the border, but Israel has remained silent about the attack, likely out of concerns about exposing Egypt’s military to domestic criticism over an Israeli strike on its soil.
Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979, but many in Egypt still view Israel with suspicion. __ Associated Press writer Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.