Rocket from Sinai hits greenhouse hours before Passover

Missile strikes tomato-growing operation in Eshkol region, near Gazan-Egyptian border, after Israel warns of imminent attack from the peninsula

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

The remains of a rocket fired from Sinai that struck an Israeli greenhouse in the village of Yuval in the Eshkol region on April 10, 2017. (Israel Police)
The remains of a rocket fired from Sinai that struck an Israeli greenhouse in the village of Yuval in the Eshkol region on April 10, 2017. (Israel Police)

A rocket fired from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula struck a greenhouse in southern Israel on Monday morning, the police said.

Though no one was struck by the rocket, a 50-year-old man who was nearby when it landed suffered an anxiety attack as a result of the attack, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.

The plastic sheeting that served as the roof the greenhouse was damaged, but the structure remained standing.

Just after 11:30 a.m., the incoming missile alarm known as a “Code Red” sounded in the Eshkol region, near Israel’s westernmost edge, at the border with Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

After a search of the area, police found the rocket in the community of Yuval, near the Egyptian border, in a greenhouse where tomatoes were being grown.

According to the IDF, the rocket was fired from the Sinai Peninsula, presumably by the Islamic State terrorist group’s affiliate there. However, no organization took immediate responsibility for the attack.

The Taba border crossing between Israel and Egypt is nearly empty of tourist traffic due to travel warnings advising Israelis to stay away from the once popular vacation destination (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
The Taba border crossing between Israel and Egypt (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The attack came hours after Israel shut down the Taba Crossing into the Sinai Peninsula, citing information about an imminent terror attack in the area.

On Monday morning, in a highly unusual move, the Transportation Ministry shut down the Taba Crossing into the Sinai Peninsula. It is expected to reopen next Tuesday, April 18, with the end of the Passover holiday, but that decision will only be made following a security assessment, the ministry said in a statement.

Israelis currently in the Sinai Peninsula will still be able to return from Egypt and are, in fact, encouraged to do so immediately, the ministry said.

Thousands of Israelis had been expected to cross into the Sinai Peninsula for the Passover holiday.

The decision to forbid that move came a day after two lethal attacks on Egyptian churches by the terrorist group’s so-called Sinai Province.

The closure was ordered by Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, after discussion with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and other security officials, according to the ministry’s statement.

This was one of the few times the Taba Crossing was shut down since its opening in 1982, following the Israeli-Egyptian peace deal. The crossing was shut down in 2014, following a terror attack on the Egyptian side of the border. It was also closed in 2011 when Israel also assessed there was a high risk of terror attacks.

On Sunday, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau released a statement encouraging all Israelis to forgo travel to the restive Sinai Peninsula, where the Islamic State has been waging a bloody war with Egyptian security forces and carrying out attacks against civilians.

Two church bombings, one in the city of Tanta and the other in Alexandria, killed at least 43 people earlier on Sunday, with the Islamic State group claiming responsibility.

“The fatal terrorist attacks which took place today reflect once again the terror capability of the Islamic State,” the anti-terror bureau said in a statement on Sunday. “In light of the gravity of the threat, the anti-terror bureau advises Israelis currently in the Sinai to leave immediately and return to Israel.”

In February, the Islamic State-affiliate, known as the Sinai Province, launched four Grad rockets at the southern city of Eilat. Three were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense battery, while the fourth struck an open field outside the city.

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