IAF fighter jet intercepts ‘aerial threat’ over Red Sea, hours after Egypt strike

IDF says drone attack on Taba wounding 6 launched from ‘Red Sea area’; incident comes week after Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen tried to fire missiles at Israel from Red Sea

An Egyptian soldier stands guard at the Taba crossing between Egypt and Israel  on October 26, 2011 (Mahmud Khaled/ AFP)
An Egyptian soldier stands guard at the Taba crossing between Egypt and Israel on October 26, 2011 (Mahmud Khaled/ AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces on Friday said a fighter jet intercepted a target over the Red Sea — apparently a drone heading for Israel — hours after an unmanned aerial vehicle slammed into the Egyptian town of Taba, wounding six people.

In a statement, the IDF said fighter jets were scrambled after an “aerial threat” was identified over the Red Sea in the morning hours. The Israeli Air Force intercepted the “hostile targets” which did not enter Israeli airspace, the IDF said, publishing a video of the interception.

The incident occurred near the Red Sea town of Nuweiba, according to Egyptian media.

Earlier Friday, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said that a strike in the Egyptian Red Sea town of Taba in the early hours of the morning originated from “the Red Sea area,” in an apparent reference to Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Taba sits on the border with Israel and is some 10 kilometers (six miles), from the southern city of Eilat.

An Egyptian military spokesman said the strike was caused by a UAV.

“In the last few hours, an aerial threat was detected in the Red Sea area. Fighter jets were scrambled to the threat and the issue is under investigation,” Hagari said.

“To our understanding, the impact in Egypt originates from this threat. Israel will work together with Egypt and the US and tighten the defense against threats from the Red Sea area,” he added.

According to Egyptian media, six people were wounded in the Taba strike.

Al-Qahera news, which has close ties to Egypt’s intelligence service, said the strike hit a medical facility where ambulances were parked and a hospital administration building.

All six people had minor injuries and were being treated at a hospital, Egypt’s Health Ministry said.

An unnamed security source cited by al-Qahera said Egypt reserved the right to respond to the attack.

Once the origin of the launch is determined, all options are available, he added.

Meanwhile, two Egyptian security sources told the Reuters news agency that a projectile also fell in the Red Sea town of Nuweiba.

It was unclear whether the impact was the result of an interception. The sources said authorities were still gathering more information on the incident.

Houthi soldiers standing on a missile carrier during a military parade on September 21, 2023. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

The Egypt blasts came days after the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen attempted to fire missiles at Israel via the Red Sea.

Last week, the Pentagon announced that a US Navy warship intercepted three missiles that were heading north and had been fired by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, and that they may have been aimed at Israel.

US officials said the USS Carney, a Navy destroyer, was in the Red Sea and intercepted the three missiles.

Unnamed Israeli officials told Hebrew-language media that the missiles were fired in the direction of Israel.

In addition to the Houthi threat, last year year National Unity leader Benny Gantz, a member of the war cabinet, warned that Iran’s maritime activity in the Red Sea was its “most significant” in a decade.

“Iran is expanding its activities in the maritime arena. Over the last year, Iran has seized international tankers and attacked vessels. Today, we can confirm that Iran is methodically basing itself in the Red Sea, with warships patrolling the southern region,” Gantz told the Economist Government Roundtable conference held in Greece.

National Unity leader Benny Gantz speaks at an event with party supporters in the Drom HaSharon Regional Council, September 5, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Hagari said last week that the Israeli military was prepared to protect against potential attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis.

“This shows the defense capabilities of the US, and their ability to build a picture of the region,” Hagari said shortly after the attack, noting the close relationship the IDF has with the US Central Command.

“Israel has some of the world’s best air defenses, and is prepared for threats like these,” he added.

Houthi rebels have expressed support for the Palestinians and threatened Israel amid the Israel-Hamas war. The Iranian-backed group’s slogan is “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam.”

Iran has warned repeatedly that Israel could face wider threats if it does not halt its war against Gazan terrorists, launched after Hamas’s October 7 terrorist rampage through southern Israel, in which 1,400 Israelis were killed, mainly civilians.

Israel has repeatedly accused Iran of being a key force behind the coordinated Hamas attack on Israel, in which it succeeded in disabling the high-tech Gaza border fence with its terrorists streaming across the border to carry out a devastating assault on nearby communities, which included taking at least 230 people hostage.

Israel says its war against Hamas is aimed at destroying the Iran-backed terror group’s infrastructure and has vowed to dismantle the organization after the October 7 massacres, while minimizing harm to Gaza’s civilians.

Amid concerns that the war could expand with the involvement of Iran and its proxies, including the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, Tehran has repeatedly threatened Israel that the region could spiral “out of control” if the war in Gaza continues.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Sunday that he warned “the US and its proxy [Israel]… that if they do not immediately stop the crime against humanity and genocide in Gaza, anything is possible at any moment and the region will become out of control.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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