By YAAKOV KATZ
PM phones Abdullah, Mubarak about rocket attacks on Aqaba, Eilat.
While Egypt denied that the rockets had been fired from its territory, Israeli defense officials said that the rockets had been fired from the Sinai Peninsula, a known safe haven for global jihad elements as well as Hamas terrorists. The rockets were Grad-model Katyushas, and officials were investigating to see if they had originated in Iran.
The IDF now plans to decide shortly whether to connect Eilat to the “Color Red” rocket warning system, which is deployed in towns along the border with the Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials did not rule out the possibility that Hamas or another Palestinian terror organization was behind the rocket attacks, which, they said, were aimed at derailing diplomatic progress in peace talks with the Palestinians, as well as damaging the tourist season in Eilat.
If carried out by global jihad elements, the rocket attacks were also likely meant to embarrass Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and make it appear that he has lost control of his country.
In total, six rockets were fired from Sinai early Monday morning. One landed in the Sinai, another in a field near Eilat and two in the Red Sea. Two more rockets landed in Jordan near the Intercontinental Hotel in Aqaba, killing one person and wounding four others.
A taxi was destroyed in the blast, said witness Muhammad Shudeifat, who was on his way to work in the area when the rocket struck.
This would not have been the first time rockets were fired at Eilat. In April, two rockets landed in Eilat and near Aqaba, and in 2005, al- Qaida operatives in Jordan launched Katyusha rockets into Eilat.
The attack came on the heels of a travel advisory issued recently by the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, warning Israelis to immediately leave the Sinai Peninsula, citing “concrete evidence” of an expected terrorist attempt to kidnap Israelis.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah on Monday about the attacks.
“The attacks perpetrated on innocent citizens of Jordan and Israel were carried out by terrorists that want to thwart the peace process,” said Netanyahu in a statement released Monday.
“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,” he added.
The Jordanian Information Ministry referred to the rocket attack as a “terror attack,” and Jordan promised to continue in its war against terror.
The US condemned the attacks, calling the actions “deplorable,” AFP reported.
US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters that the attacks seemed to be an attempt to sabotage peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“At a point where we are hoping to see direct negotiations begin as soon as possible to address the core concerns, it’s not surprising that you have others who are taking actions to try to inhibit that kind of progress,” said Crowley.
He added that the US had “strong suspicions” about who was responsible for the attacks, but he did not elaborate.
AP and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.