Authorities comb Sinai in wake of Aqaba, Eilat rockets

An Egyptian security source on Tuesday said authorities were combing the Sinai Peninsula after claims by Jordan that it had “proof” that the rocket that struck the port city of Aqaba on Monday–killing one person and wounding five others–was launched from Taba in northern Sinai.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source insisted that no hostile operations were being conducted from the peninsula, where security has been firmly established and all suspicious activity is closely monitored.

Jordan’s claims come 24 hours after Egypt officially denied that the rocket had been launched from Sinai.

According to one Jordanian official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, investigations have revealed “without doubt” that the rocket was launched from Taba. He added that the Jordanian authorities “strongly suspected” the involvement of a particular group, but declined to elaborate.

A second rocket landed in the Israeli port city of Eilat the same day, causing no casualties.

Other Jordanian security sources said that surveillance cameras installed in a hotel located near where the missile landed had detected its launching point. They added that the Jordanian security services were aware of which groups had access to this particular type of low-tech rocket, which cannot be detected by satellite.

While the same sources declined to discuss possible suspects, Mohamed Abu Roman, an expert on Islamic groups, suspected Al-Qaeda to be behind the operation, noting that security in Sinai was “insufficient.” He asserted that Al-Qaeda was working on “improving its image” after having been accused of neglecting the Palestinian cause.

Israeli vacationers returned to Eilat in the wake of the incident, while Jordanian Tourism Minister Susan Afaneh said that Jordanian tourism had not been affected. “Reservations have not been canceled and hotel occupancy rates are higher than normal,” she said.

Notably, Aqaba was similarly struck by two rockets three months ago, one of which fell into the sea while the other landed on a refrigeration warehouse, causing only material damage.

In a related development, Salah el-Bardawil, a leading member of Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, denied the group’s involvement in the latest incident. He said that Israel was simply looking for reasons to justify its aggression against the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip.

“Hamas will not drag the Palestinian people, who are still bleeding from their wounds, into a war,” he said. “The enemy knows full well that we did not launch those rockets.”

Leading Islamic Jihad member Khaled el-Batsh, for his part, said it was very difficult for Palestinian resistance factions to transport missiles into Sinai from the Gaza Strip. “They tend to fight Israel from within their own territories,” he said.

US officials, meanwhile, have described the twin launches as “deplorable acts” aimed at derailing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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