JERUSALEM, (AFP) – A volley of rockets apparently fired from Egypt’s Sinai rained down on the Red Sea ports of Eilat and Aqaba on Monday, killing one Jordanian and injuring five but causing no casualties in Israel.
Israeli police said at least five blasts were heard in and around Eilat at 7:45 am (0445 GMT), with one rocket exploding in fields outside the city, two crashing into the sea, and the rest landing across the border in Jordan.
Jordanian officials said that at about the same time, a Grad-type rocket slammed into Aqaba, less than 10 kilometres (six miles) from Eilat, injuring six people, one of whom later died from his injuries.
“Subhi Yousef al-Alawneh died in Aqaba as a result of wounds he sustained from the rocket attack,” a security official told AFP, saying the 51-year-old taxi driver had died in Aqaba’s Princess Haya hospital.
“Investigations proved that the rocket was fired from southwest of Aqaba,” a Jordanian official close to the investigation told AFP — indicating Egypt’s Sinai desert.
In Israel, Eilat police chief Moshe Cohen said initial reports suggested the rockets had been fired from “the south,” also an apparent reference to the Sinai peninsula, which lies some 10 kilometres (six miles) south of Eilat.
An Israeli military source said the same. “It’s probable that the rockets were fired from the direction of Egypt,” she told AFP.
But an Egyptian security official denied any attack had been launched from the sandy peninsula which flanks the Gulf of Aqaba.
“The rockets did not come from Sinai. To launch rockets from Sinai would need a great deal of logistics and equipment and that is impossible considering the heavy security presence in the Sinai peninsula,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“We have a heavy security presence in Sinai, particularly along the Egyptian Israeli border. No suspicious activity has been reported anywhere in Sinai.”
Jordanian Interior Minister Nayef Qadai and other officials said the rocket smashed into a street near to the Intercontinental hotel, killing a taxi-driver, wounding five other men and destroying three cars.
“The injured are still at the hospital. They are in a stable condition,” a security official said.
He identified those hurt as two taxi drivers, a member of the tourist police, a security guard and an engineer who works in Aqaba.
Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told AFP that “four or five” explosions were heard in and around Eilat at around 7:45 am (0445 GMT).
“It seems they were caused by rockets,” Rosenfeld said, adding that two of the rockets had landed in the sea, while a third had apparently crashed into “open areas around Eilat,” although he was not able to specify exactly where.
Another two had apparently landed in Jordanian territory, the Eilat police chief said.
The Israeli military said it was investigating the origin of the attack and was in constant contact with the authorities in Egypt and Jordan.
A similar attack occurred in April when two military-grade rockets struck Aqaba, one hitting an empty warehouse and the other landing in the Red Sea near the Israeli border, security officials on both sides said.
At the time, it was unclear whether Aqaba or Eilat was the target of the attack, which appeared to have been launched from the Sinai peninsula.
Three Katyusha rockets were fired at Aqaba in August 2005, one of which hit a warehouse killing a Jordanian soldier, while a second landed in Israel in an attack claimed by a group linked to Al-Qaeda.
The two Red Sea ports lie on the northernmost point of the Gulf of Aqaba, a narrow stretch of water bordered on one side by the Sinai and the other by Saudi Arabia.