In a statement released to jihadist forums this evening, the Sinai-based jihadist group Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) announced that its fighters carried out a rocket attack against the southern Israeli city of Eilat. Security sources earlier told AFP that the remains of one rocket had been located.
“At least one rocket was fired at Eilat and they found the remains on the outskirts of the city,” the source said. However, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said no rockets had been located and that authorities would resume the search on Jan. 21.
In its communiqué, the jihadist group claimed that “the Jews” are the driving force behind the “war on Islam and Muslims” currently underway in Egypt as they are pressuring Western governments and Egypt’s military to help preserve its security. Ansar Jerusalem concluded by saying that although it is currently engaged in a fight in Egypt, it will not forget that its first enemy is “the Jews.”
Today’s attack on Eilat is the first such since mid-August, when the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC) took responsibility for a rocket attack on Eilat. The MSC said it fired the Grad rocket, which was intercepted by one of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense systems, in response to the killing of four members of Ansar Jerusalem.
Although Eilat has not normally been a target of rocket fire from terror groups in the region, it has increasingly come under fire during the past two years. On Nov. 20, 2012, Ansar Jerusalem claimed to have fired rockets at Eilat. The same group also took responsibility for a rocket attack on Eilat in mid-August 2012.
More recently, in early July last year, Ansar Jerusalem issued a statement claiming responsibility for the firing of two rockets toward Eilat. Prior to that, in April, the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Eilat.
The firing of rockets and mortars toward Israel from Gaza has increased in recent weeks. In response to the rocket fire, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has struck a number of terror sites in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Yesterday, the IAF targeted Ahmad Saad, an operative in Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who was allegedly behind the firing of five rockets toward Ashkelon on Jan. 16, among other attacks.
Israeli officials in recent days have said that Hamas “can and must do more” to stop rocket fire from Gaza. “We are determined to maintain quiet in the south. We will do so by a policy of preventive action and strong reaction against those who try to harm us or who harm us. I suggest that Hamas take our policy into account,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday at a cabinet meeting.