Jordan confirms Grad rocket strike close to Aqaba
Two rockets were fired from the Sinai Peninsula toward Eilat early yesterday morning. One fell near the Jordanian city of Aqaba, the second fell into the bay. No one was hurt.
This was the first time a rocket has been fired at the resort town in almost five years.
Jordanian officials confirmed that the rockets, probably Soviet truck-mounted 122-mm Grad-class Katyushas, were launched at about 5 A.M. and that one struck a refrigerated warehouse on the outskirts of Aqaba.
The rocket launches were heard on the Israeli side of the border, in the Eilat region, but the Israel Defense Forces said it did not know their exact landing places.
After combing the area, security forces ruled out a landing in Israeli territory. Military sources say the rockets were probably launched from northern Sinai, a few kilometers from the Israeli border.
Both Jordan and Egypt initially denied that any rockets had been fired. Only in the evening did Jordan's Information Minister, Nabil al-Sharif, say that initial investigations indicate that a Russian-designed Grad rocket was fired from beyond Jordan's borders.
He said authorities were continuing their investigation to determine the exact location of the launch site.
Aqaba residents reported hearing at least two early-morning explosions in the city. Eilat residents reported hearing explosions at around 5 A.M. An Israeli border supervisor at the Taba border crossing ordered police to close down the crossing into Egypt and to warn tourists in the area.
Israeli sources said they believe that World Jihad militants in Sinai were responsible for the rockets, which targeted Israel. Jordanian tourist resorts, which World Jihad has attacked in the past in a bid to weaken the monarchy, might have been the intended target, however.
The incident occurred a few hours before a meeting between Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in Sharm el-Sheikh. Tensions were high in the area: Last week Jerusalem urged Israelis vacationing in Sinai to leave immediately, citing concrete evidence of plans to kidnap Israelis in the Egyptian region.
A tour guide at the Taba crossing reported hearing two explosions there terminal at about 5 A.M. "The first was dull and two seconds later a very close one sounded, causing the windows at the terminal to shudder. It sounded like a rocket landing rather than a launching," he said.