Al Qaeda-linked Salafist group claims Eilat rocket attack
In case of a follow-up attack, the Eilat authorities ordered bomb shelters opened after five long-range Grad missiles were aimed from Sinai at the city Wednesday, April 17. The attack was claimed by an al Qaeda-linked Salafist group operating in Sinai and the Gaza Strip – the Shura Council of Jihad fighters of Jerusalem. Thye missiles were not intercepted by Iron Dome. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon updated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – who is in London for the Margaret Thatcher funeral – on the incident and discussed with him how Israel should respond.
debkafile reported earlier :
Eilat airfield was closed for a couple of hours Wednesday morning, April 17, after five Grad missiles were launched from Sinai. Three exploded in Israel’s southernmost town; two more near the neighboring Jordanian town of Aqaba. This is denied by Jordan although confirmed by the Israeli military spokesman. Planes were allowed to takeoff from Eilat but landings were barred.
Although southern Israeli was on alert from April 3 on intelligence of a multiple al Qaeda terror offensive impending by al Qaeda cells in Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip, the five-rocket salvo took the IDF by surprise. The Iron Dome missile interceptor deployed outside the town did not function and the warning sirens sounded after the missiles exploded. No casualties were reported.
On April 4, debkafile reported that southern Israel was placed on alert for attacks from Sinai and the Gaza Strip and the deployment of two Iron Dome missile interceptors near Eilat and Ashkelon.
Read debkafile’s April 4 report for background.
Incoming intelligence of All Qaeda groups in the Sinai Peninsula winding up preparations for a multiple attack on an Israeli location, such as Eilat, and a US military target in the Negev, has put southern Israel and US forces posted there on high terror alert. This is reported by debkafile’s military sources.
The Israeli high command decided to treat the five Qassam rockets fired at Shear Hanegev Wednesday, April 3, which were claimed by the Al Qaeda-affiliated Salafist “Jihad Brigades in Jerusalem.” as the opening salvo for this coordinated attack. An Iron Dome battery was accordingly moved Thursday to the Israeli-Egyptian border north of the southern port of Eilat and additional IDF strength directed to the South.
Heavy sandstorms in the region have sharply reduced visibility for troop movements and provided excellent cover for terrorist infiltration.
Dozens of armed Salafist and al Qaeda operatives in SUVs on which heavy machine guns were mounted were sighted Tuesday driving along the northern Sinai road linking Rafah on the Gazan border to Sheikh Zuweid. They withdrew hurriedly to the mountainous central region when a beefed up Egyptian military contingent drew up and was able to catch a few.
The group is believed to be preparing to mount a multiple attack simultaneously from Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Eilat may be one target but others are thought to be US forces based in the Negev and also the many American officers and men of the MFO peacekeeping force in northern Sinai.
debkafile: Israeli spokesmen are holding Hamas responsible for the revival of the missile and mortar attacks from the Gaza Strip after five months of calm were ushered in by the November ceasefire agreement. They are trying to push the Hamas rulers into asserting control and reining in the Salafist and al Qaeda-linked cells embedded in the southern Gaza Strip.
Israel is also calling on the Egyptian government to step up military action to cut down terrorist activity in North Sinai and other border areas.
These Israeli steps have had little effect. Hamas is scared of a direct confrontation with al Qaeda’s cells and allies, while the Egyptian security agencies have adopted a policy of checking the papers of entrants from Sinai to Egypt proper, but not travelers moving in the opposite direction. There is therefore no bar against Islamist terrorists from Egypt and even Libya entering Sinai.