PM: Hamas Behind Eilat Rocket Attacks

Israel has intelligence confirming that Hamas was responsible for the rocket attack on Eilat this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced publicly on Wednesday.

Israel has intelligence confirming that Hamas was responsible for the rocket attack on Eilat this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced publicly yesterday. He said the militant Palestinian group was also responsible for the rocket launched at the southern city in April.

Netanyahu sent a clear message to Hamas and to the government in Lebanon, following the incident on the northern border Tuesday in which an IDF reservist officer was killed and another injured, saying Israel would target anyone who fires at its citizens.

The decision to reveal the intelligence was made at yesterday morning's cabinet meeting. Instead of holding a press conference or responding to questions from the press, Netanyahu opted to issue a short message.

At the briefing room of the Prime Minister's Bureau, he made a short statement into the camera of the Government Press Office.

The prime minister drew links between the incident on the northern border, the rocket attack on Ashkelon last week, and those launched at Eilat from Sinai. He made it clear that the IDF had responded to the attack on Ashkelon by targeting a senior Hamas figure, and in Lebanon had hit Lebanese Army installations.

"I want to make it clear to Hamas and to the government of Lebanon that we consider them responsible for the violent provocations against our soldiers. Do not test our determination to defend the citizens and soldiers of Israel," Netanyahu said. "Our policy is clear: Israel responds and it will continue to respond aggressively to every attack on its citizens and soldiers."

Considering Israel's lethal response to the attack on Ashkelon, the prime minister suggested that Hamas was hiding its responsibility for the attack on Eilat and Aqaba to avoid further retaliation from Israel.

"Three days after our response in Gaza, Grad missiles were fired from Sinai on Eilat and Aqaba by, allegedly, an anonymous group," Netanyahu said. "Several months earlier, on April 22, a similar attack from Sinai was carried out on Eilat. We investigated both instances and learned, beyond any doubt, that a cell of Hamas' military wing is behind the missiles fired on both occasions."

Meanwhile, Egyptian security sources appeared to confirm Netanyahu's assertion that Hamas was responsible for the rocket attack on Eilat.

Egyptian security sources quoted in the daily al-Youm al-Sab'a said Hamas militants had snuck into Sinai through the Rafah tunnels to hide the fact that the group was behind the operation.

Still, the quoted Egyptian sources avoided making any direct claims that Hamas was behind the launch of the rockets. In other reports, Egyptian security sources were more careful. The Egyptian news agency Asharq Al-Awsat reported that Palestinians were responsible for the attack. The sources were also quoted by Reuters.

Egyptian security sources told Haaretz that there is still no certainty as to the identity of the persons behind the rocket attacks, but their investigation continues.

Egypt initially denied the rockets had been fired from its territory, a fact that it now acknowledges.

If it is proven that Hamas or one of its cells was indeed behind the attack, this will represent a new stage in friction between Cairo and Hamas.