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

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 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 about 7:45 a.m. The blast killed a taxi driver, set two cars on fire and injured security guards and construction workers.

The attack was part of a salvo of as many as five rockets believed to have been fired toward the Israeli town of Eilat, which sits along the coast a few miles from Aqaba.

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

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Israeli officials said at least three explosions were heard in Eilat about 8 a.m. Security teams later found the remnants of one rocket near a drainage basin in the north of the city, according to police. Two other rockets reportedly fell into the sea and another in the Sinai. There were no other casualties.

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 Israel Radio that Monday’s rockets were probably fired from the Sinai. Jordanian officials weren’t as pointed but said the short-range Grad rocket that killed the taxi driver came from the southwest, indicating the Sinai. 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,” an Egyptian security official told Egypt’s official MENA news agency. “There is no presence of any Al Qaeda elements inside Egypt or Sinai. There are constant security measures along the borders.”

No group took immediate responsibility for the attack.

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Militant Islamists and Bedouin tribes that control weapon-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 from a prison truck. 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 Adly 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 say the tribesmen have been marginalized for generations and face few economic opportunities. Egyptian authorities blame them for running criminal gangs that oversee drug and human trafficking and a network of tunnels routing supplies to the Gaza Strip.

At times, Bedouins and Islamists have coordinated their actions, launching deadly attacks over the years to undermine Egypt’s tourism industry. In 2004, bombings at resorts in Taba and Ras Shitan killed at least 34 people. The next year, 88 people died in bomb attacks in Sharm el Sheik, and in 2006 at least 23 people were killed in blasts in Dahab.

jeffrey.fleishman@latimes.com

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


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