A Jordanian citizen was killed and five others wounded yesterday when a volley of Grad-type Katyusha rockets fired from Sinai at Eilat overshot the Israeli city and struck hotels at the Jordanian city of Aqaba.
One rocket hit fields north of Eilat and another is believed to have landed in the sea. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack but defense analysts believe Bedouin gangs operating in Sinai or the Global Jihad group are behind the attack.
The six rockets were fired at 7:40 A.M. without any warning and caused short-lived panic in the resort cities of Eilat and Aqaba.
Two rockets landed near the Intercontinental Hotel in Aqaba and Jordanian security forces sealed off the area. One rocket scored a nearly direct hit on a taxi carrying Jordanian workers wounding five Jordanian civilians were killing the 51-year-old driver.
One of the hotel guests vacationing in the city told Haaretz that the blast of the rocket shook the entire hotel compound.
"It was early for people on vacation, so most of the hotel guests were in their rooms when the enormous blast shook the area. I had no doubt that it was a missile since we had heard the incoming whistle sound several second prior to the blast. We saw people coming out onto their balconies frightened, not knowing what had happened."
Jordan's King Abdullah II, who is currently out of the country, ordered authorities in the country to assist the families of the victims and dispatched his brother, Prince Ali Ben Hussein, to visit the injured and evaluate the damage.
Following a search, police found one rocket that had hit the salt pools north of the Eilat airport without causing any damage. Police believe that another rocket crashed harmlessly into the sea.
The rocket attack led to the closing of the border crossings between Jordan, Israel and Egypt for approximately an hour, and civilians on the border were evacuated until it was certain that no more rocket barrages would follow.
Security forces said that one other rocket likely fell in Sinai.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke yesterday with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Abdullah and said that "the criminal attack on innocent civilians, in Israel and in Jordan was carried out by terrorist groups who want to foil the peace process."
The prime minister added that "all the countries in the region aspire to peace and need to fight against these forces and keep terrorism away and bring peace closer."
Though Egypt officially denies the rockets were fired from its territory, security forces in Israel are certain that the rockets came from Sinai, as has happened in the past. A number of terrorist groups are operating in the Sinai peninsula and are busy with smuggling arms into the Gaza Strip and efforts to penetrate into Israel.
Among the groups operating in the Sinai are those with links to Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaida and other global Jihadi groups.
A senior IDF source said yesterday that the rockets were meant to "embarrass Egypt."
Israel's long border with Egypt is relatively unguarded compared to the electric fences and advanced surveillance systems surrounding the Gaza Strip.
The presence of terrorist groups in the Sinai is one of the reasons for the serious travel warning issued by Israel's Counter Terrorism Unit against Israelis traveling to Sinai and Egypt.
Senior IDF sources stressed that in the past year there has been significant improvement in the coordination activities with the Egyptian and Jordanian armed forces, but they also note that on the Egyptian side there is still some hesitation to confront the gangs in the peninsula head on.
Three and a half months ago, two Katyushas were fired against Eilat from Sinai. One exploded in fields near the industrial zone of Aqaba, and the other in the sea, causing no injuries.
Another attack took place in December 2005, this time from Jordan. One exploded near the airport in Eilat causing some damage to a car, while two others were hit an American warship anchored at the Aqaba port and a Jordanian military hospital, killing one soldier.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now