The city of Eilat on the Red Sea is Israel’s answer to Miami Beach; it’s the place where families come for a week of sun, sand, surf, and relaxation. Despite its close proximity to both Jordan and Egypt, Eilat is normally a peaceful and sunny resort town. But early Monday morning, the August vacationers who packed the city’s numerous hotels received a rude awakening — literally.
At 7:45 am, loud booming noises rocked the city. When the dust cleared, the tourists in Eilat learned that the harsh realities of Israel’s security threats had followed them to the country’s southernmost tip. A series of Grad rockets, which appeared to have been launched from the Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, had landed on the outskirts of the city and in the sea, none of them hitting populated buildings or causing casualties.
One rocket, however, missed its target — presuming, of course, the target was the Israeli city — and made its way over the border into Jordanian territory, with deadly results. Ynet reported:
Jordanian authorities said a Grad rocket landed near vehicles parked at the entrance to the InterContinental Hotel in Aqaba. Local media outlets reported that five people were injured in the attack. One of them, 40-year-old Subhi al-Alauna, died of his wounds several hours later.
In what can only be diagnosed as a severe case of denial and avoidance, the government of Egypt insisted that there was no way the rocket fire could have come from the Sinai, despite all evidence to the contrary, reported the Jerusalem Post:
“No rockets were launched from the Sinai,” said Egyptian sources. “To launch rockets from Egypt, it takes equipment and complicated logistical preparations. It is impossible, since the Sinai Peninsula has heavy security.”
The Egyptians didn’t state precisely where they believed the rockets had been fired from. They just declared defiantly that they weren’t fired from their country. Neither Jordan nor Israel was in a hurry to embarrass Egypt. Jordan, the country that had been hurt worst from the attack — and that seemed to be silently implicated in Egypt’s denials — bent over backwards to help the Egyptians escape both embarrassment and blame. Their government information minister and their media would only report that the rockets were fired “from outside Jordanian territory,” countering the Egyptians.
Before the precise culprit for the rockets was determined, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu immediately hit the telephones, reaching out to Egyptian President Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah to express his concern over the situation. He stated that “all of the countries in the region who want peace need to fight against these forces in order to expel terror and bring peace closer..”
The source of the attacks is an urgent and troubling issue for Israel. If indeed, as Israeli military sources theorize, they were launched by “global jihad groups” in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, it means that another front has opened up in addition to the volatile northern border with Lebanon and the volatile relationship with Hamas-ruled Gaza. It also calls into question the extent of control that the Egyptian military actually has over the Sinai. The rocket launches confirm Israel’s fears that Hamas in Gaza has been cultivating its relationship with the Bedouin that populate the Sinai, developing the area not only as as a pipeline for smuggling weapons into Gaza, but as an additional base for violence against Israel, in defiance of the peace between Egypt and the Jewish state.