Egypt Held Alleged Terror Squad Prior to Eilat Rocket Attack, Report Says

Egypt investigating possible connection to rocket volley as al-Sharq al-Awsat says 3 men arrested with materials to construct bombs, improvised explosive devices.

Egyptian security forces arrested a suspected terror squad in the Sinai five days before last week's rocket attack on Eilat and Aqaba, the pan-Arab newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported on Sunday, adding that it was not clear if there was a connection between the two incidents.


A Jordanian citizen was killed and five others wounded last week 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 both Israel and Egyptian sources have pointed their fingers at Gaza Strip rulers Hamas.

According to Sunday's report, Egypt's Sinai security forces apprehended three men in a vehicle five days prior to the attack, with equipment and material that could be used to assemble bombs and improvised explosive devices in their possession.

While Egyptian sources indicated that they saw a connection between the arrested squad and last week's attack, no evidence of such a link has yet been found.

The al-Sharq al-Awsat report added that news of the arrest had initially been held by Egyptian authorities in an attempt to maintain the summer tourism season, and to prevent injury against the tourist sites in the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

On Friday, Palestinian security officials claimed the commander of Hamas' military wing in Rafah, Raed al-Atar, was responsible for ordering the firing of Grad-type Katyusha rockets at Eilat and Aqaba.

That report came as the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported yesterday that Egypt had declared a state of emergency in the Sinai Peninsula as part of a manhunt for the militants who fired the rockets.

Hamas had steered clear from carrying out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets from the territory of a third country, and it certainly has not targeted Jordan. But Hamas members have been arrested on their way to attack Israeli targets in Egypt.

In Jordan many Hamas operatives have been arrested, along with weapons that apparently were part of a plan to strike Jordanian targets or Israeli targets in Amman.

A day after the rocket attacks the Jordanians said they knew who was behind the operation, until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday that the attacks were carried out by Hamas.

If Hamas is indeed guilty, the incident may worsen relations between the Palestinian Islamist group and Egypt and Jordan.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces has stepped up its preparedness along the border with Egypt, amid concerns that militants planned to carry out further attacks from Egypt.

The Egyptians have also stepped up activity on their side of the border with increased patrols by troops in armored personnel carriers.