Hard-line group claims responsibility for Eilat rocket attack

Hard-line group claims responsibility for Eilat rocket attack

Salafi Front also says it carried out strikes on gas pipeline

A man riding a camel in the Sinai. (illustrative photo: CC-BY-SA  Mattk1979, Flickr)
A man riding a camel in the Sinai. (illustrative photo: CC-BY-SA Mattk1979, Flickr)

A hard-line Islamist group operating in the Sinai claimed responsibility Thursday morning for rockets fired into southern Israel the night before as well as for a series of attacks on Egypt’s gas pipeline to Israel.

The Salafi Front in Sinai issued a statement on a number of Islamist sites saying that its fight was not against Egyptian police but against Jews and Zionists.

On Wednesday, two large blasts were heard near the Red Sea resort town of Eilat. Officials suspect two rockets were fired from Sinai into Israel, though the rockets had not been found as of Thursday morning.

The group, of which little is known, said it had fired the rockets.

It also said it was responsible for attacks on the gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel. A series of over a dozen attacks in the year since the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak all but cut off vital gas supplies to Israel.

However the terror group said it was not responsible for the killing of 16 Egyptian border policemen earlier in the month that sparked a heavy Egyptian crackdown of Islamist activity in the peninsula.

In the wake of the attack, which ended when a group of terrorists tried to infiltrate Israel with a hijacked armored vehicle, Egypt for the first time since 1973 deployed helicopters and jets to Sinai in a bid to root out the terrorists.

On Wednesday, Salafi Jihadi, one of the largest militant groups in the Sinai, issued a statement calling on Cairo to still its guns or risk dragging the group into a battle it doesn’t want.

The group said its true fight was with the “Zionist enemy,” Reuters reported.

Egyptian officials suspect hard-line Salafis allied with Al-Qaeda and other terror groups are behind the growing lawlessness in the Sinai. Aside from the attack on the border police station in Rafah, there have been a number of shooting attacks on police stations in the peninsula, many of them in northern town of El Arish.

Terrorists operating in the Sinai have also used it as a base from which to attack Israel. A large-scale attack on the road running along the Egyptian border in August 2011 left seven Israelis dead.

Israel is currently working on finishing a fence along the largely rugged and uninhabited border, which it says is designed to keep out illegal African migrants and meant as a security measure.

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