Islamic State claims Eilat rocket attack, threatens more

Group’s Sinai-based affiliate says it fired rockets ‘to teach Jews, crusaders a proxy war will not avail them of anything’

Dov Lieber is a former Times of Israel Arab affairs correspondent.

Islamic State's affiliate Sinai Province at weapons training, February 6, 2016 (illustrative image: via MEMRI)
Islamic State's affiliate Sinai Province at weapons training, February 6, 2016 (illustrative image: via MEMRI)

An Islamic State-affiliated terror group on Thursday claimed an attack that saw four rockets fired at the Red Sea resort city of Eilat in southern Israel from the Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday night.

The Islamic State Sinai Province said in a statement posted online, “A military squad fired a number of Grad rockets at communities of Jewish usurpers in the town of Eilat.”

The statement said the group attacked Israel “in order to teach the Jews and the crusaders a proxy war will not avail them of anything.”

“The future will be more calamitous with Allah’s permission,” the statement said.

The group has been waging a bloody battle against Egyptian forces in recent years. Egypt and Israel are known to have some level of security coordination in the Sinai.

Three of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, and the fourth fell in an open area.

There were no injuries or damage reported from the rocket salvo. However, city officials said several people were treated for anxiety attacks related to the incident.

Fragments of one of the rockets were found in a hotel swimming pool, according to pictures posted to social media.

Eilat is a resort city, popular with tourists from Europe. It is currently full to capacity with visitors.

Early Thursday morning, two Palestinians were killed and five were injured in the southern Gaza Strip near the Egypt border, in an explosion that Hamas officials claimed was an Israeli airstrike in retaliation for the rocket attack.

The IDF denied it had carried out an airstrike in Gaza overnight.

Sinai borders Israel and also the Gaza Strip for a few kilometers at the northern end of the peninsula.

Sinai Province was set up in 2011, ostensibly to attack Israel by firing rockets across the 240-kilometer (149-mile) border or sabotaging a gas pipeline that runs between Egypt and Israel.

But most of the fighting, by far, has been with Egyptian government forces and attacks on Israel have been relatively rare.

Jihadists have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and policemen since the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 unleashed a bloody crackdown on his supporters.

In 2011, assailants who came from the Sinai killed eight Israelis in a triple ambush north of Eilat. Israeli forces in pursuit killed seven attackers and five Egyptian police.

In 2013, four jihadists were killed by an Egyptian airstrike as they were about to fire a rocket at Israel, according to the Egyptian military.

And in 2014, two patrolling Israeli soldiers were wounded by unidentified men who fired an anti-tank weapon from the Sinai during an attempted drug-smuggling operation, according to the Israeli military.

In 2015, rockets fired from Sinai landed in southern Israel, but did not cause any casualties. The Sinai Province group claimed responsibility.

Israel has denounced the movement of men and weapons between Sinai and the Gaza Strip, which is governed by the Hamas terrorist group.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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