Rocket misses Israeli town, kills 1 in Jordan, authorities say

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

A rocket apparently aimed at an Israeli resort on the Red Sea landed Monday near a luxury hotel in neighboring Jordan, killing one person and wounding five others in an attack probably launched by Islamic militants in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, according to Israeli authorities.

Jordanian officials said a rocket struck a road outside the InterContinental Hotel in Aqaba at about 7:45 a.m. local time. The blast killed a taxi driver, set two cars on fire and injured security guards and construction workers. The attack was part of salvo of as many as five rockets fired toward the Israeli town of Eilat, on the coast a few miles from Aqaba.

“The rocket was launched from outside the country,” said Ali Al Ayed, the Jordanian minister for media affairs and communications.

Israeli officials said at least three explosions were heard in Eilat at about 8 a.m. local time. There were no casualties, and security teams were searching the city’s outskirts to see if a rocket had landed in a field. Two other rockets reportedly fell into the sea.

The assault was similar to an attack in April when a rocket struck a warehouse in Aqaba, causing no injuries.

Amos Gilad, director of policy and security at the Israeli Defense Ministry, told Israeli radio that Monday’s rockets were likely fired from Sinai. Jordanian officials weren’t as pointed, but they reached the same conclusion. Egypt denied the reports.

“No rockets were fired at Israel by Palestinian elements in the Sinai area, as the area is tightly controlled by Egyptian security bodies,” a security official told Egypt’s MENA news agency. “There is no presence of any Al Qaeda elements inside Egypt or Sinai. There are constant security measures along the borders.”

Militant Islamists and Bedouin tribes that control smuggling networks have long made the Sinai a security concern for Egypt. In February, Bedouin gunmen and Egyptian forces clashed after a tribal leader escaped prison. Skirmishes intensified throughout June as Bedouins threatened to blow up oil and gas pipelines, including a natural-gas line supplying Israel.

Egyptian Interior Minister Habib Adli recently met with tribal leaders and, as a good-faith effort, released dozens of Bedouins from jail, including a prominent activist. Human-rights groups and clan leaders claim the tribesmen have been marginalized and face few economic opportunities. Egyptian authorities blame them for running criminal gangs that oversee weapons trafficking and the network of tunnels routing supplies to the Gaza Strip.

Bedouins and Islamists also have been involved in deadly attacks over the years to undermine Egypt’s tourism industry. In 2004, twin bombings at resorts in Taba and Ras al-Shitan killed at least 34 people. A year later, 88 people died in bomb attacks in Sharm el Sheikh, and in 2006 at least 23 people were killed in blasts in Dahab.

Batsheva Sobelman of The Times’ Jerusalem bureau contributed to this report.