The southern port city of Eilat, once thought to be practically extra-territorial in terms of security and demographic dangers, now finds itself under a two-pronged attack from foreign infiltrators and terrorist rockets.
Meir Yitzchak Halevy, mayor of Israel’s tourism capital, told Arutz-7 today that despite the rockets or katyushas fired on Eilat this morning, “The routine of daily life continues. We have received tens of thousands of tourists this year, and we are ready for more. I call upon Israelis to come and visit us, and we will welcome you happily.”
Asked if it is the great concentration of tourists that might be making Eilat such an inviting target for Arab terrorists either in the Sinai or Jordan, Halevy said, “Hostile anti-Israel elements have always wanted to target life in this area, and even in [the neighboring Jordanian city of] Aqaba, and the best way to respond to them is by not giving them what they want. Those responsible for security must respond with a strong hand, tourists will come, and we in Eilat will live our lives.”
Asked if there had been any warning prior to the rockets, “We received our warning three and a half months ago in the form of rockets on Eilat.”
On April 22 of this year, two or three explosions were heard in Eilat and Aqaba; it was originally thought that missiles had been over-shot from Egyptian territory, but a Jordanian security source soon announced that the rockets had been under-shot from within Jordanian territory, falling in Aqaba, short of their target of Eilat.
This morning's rockets are believed to have been fired from the Sinai, though Egypt has denied this. It has been learned that of the four people wounded in Aqaba, one has died. No one was hurt by the rockets that landed in Israel.
In February 1968, and again in December 2005, Eilat was shelled by Jordanian Katyusha rockets, while in August 1969, Egyptians fired rockets at the city.
Mayor Halevy said that a fence must be built nearby between Eilat and Sinai, “in order to prevent hostile infiltrations, and of course a demand must be made upon Egypt to take stronger action against rocket-firing terrorist elements.”
Infiltrators from Africa, mostly Eritrea and Sudan, have snuck into Israel, mostly into Eilat and Arad, in recent years, causing a minor crime wave in Eilat. It has been estimated that the new arrivals comprise over 10% of the city’s population. MK Yaakov Katz (National Union), Chairman of the Knesset Committee for Foreign Workers, has demanded that the Cabinet give final approval to the construction of a fence between Israel and the Sinai, but the decision has not yet been made.
Terrorist attacks have claimed Jewish lives in Eilat. In November 1990, some 20 kilometers north of Eilat, an Egyptian soldier opened fire at a group of Israelis, murdering four. In May 1992, two Arabs who swam to Israel from Aqaba killed a guard at the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in southern Eilat. On Jan. 29, 2007, a Palestinian suicide terrorist detonated himself inside a bakery in the city, killing three.PA television shows for children often refer to Israeli-built cities such as Eilat and Ashkelon as “Palestinian.”