Iron Dome Intercepts Rocket Near Eilat

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

Israel shot down a rocket aimed at Eilat early on Tuesday, blowing it up in mid-air near the border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, a military official said.

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

Air raid sirens rang out and blasts reverberated over the hills surrounding the resort city on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba, witnesses and Israeli news media said. No casualties or damage were reported.

A retired Israeli security official said it was the first time Israel’s Iron Dome interceptor system had struck a missile fired at Eilat.

“It’s not the first time that a rocket has been fired at Eilat, but it is the first time the Iron Dome has intercepted one,” Dani Arditi, former national security adviser, told Army Radio.

Israel briefly shut its airport in the city on Thursday citing threats from militants in Sinai involved in a standing confrontation with the Egyptian military.

Magles Shoura al-Mujahideen, an Islamist terror faction which also has a small presence in the Gaza Strip, claimed it fired the missile at Eilat.

Eilat’s mayor said there had been no panic.

“I think the military prepared in the best possible way with an enhanced defensive shield to protect Eilat and tourists including the (Iron Dome) battery,” Meir Yitzchak-Halevy told Army Radio.

Al-Qaida accused Israel of carrying out Friday’s missile strike in Sinai but Israel dismissed the accusation. Egypt’s armed forces said one of its helicopters fired the missile at al-Qaida fighters.