Israel intercepts rocket from Egyptian territory targeted at coastal resort of Eilat

  • @melanie_leather

Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted a rocket launched at the Red Sea resort town of Eilat near the border with Egypt today, the army said.

Islamist militants operating in the Sinai desert peninsula said they fired the rocket at the city, which was packed with tourists, in retaliation for the killing of four guerrillas in Sinai on Friday.

It was the first time the defence system has successfully intercepted a rocket attack on the resort, the military said. The incident followed days of heightened tension along the Egypt-Israel border. 

The army said the rocket was intercepted early today and that there were no injuries.

Ansar Jerusalem, an al-Qa'ida-inspired militant group based in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, claimed responsibility for launching the rocket in an email to The Associated Press. The little known group is hostile to both Israel and Egypt and was behind an attack in August 2011 near Eilat that killed eight people. 

In Cairo, Egypt's state MENA news agency quoted an unnamed security official as saying authorities could not confirm that the rocket was launched from Sinai. The report said Egyptian forces were investigating. 

Most Iron Dome batteries have been deployed along Israel's border with Gaza, and the missile defence system intercepted rockets during Israel's fighting with Gaza militants in 2012. Other batteries have been placed on Israel's border with Lebanon.

The Sinai was largely demilitarised as part of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty of 1979. But Israel has allowed Egypt to send troops to the area to combat the militants and arms smuggling by Palestinians into Gaza.