Egypt Denies Sinai Rocket Launch
Egyptian officials on Thursday denied that three Grad rockets which struck the city of Eilat in the pre-dawn hours were fired from the Sinai desert.
Mahamoud El-Hefnawy, Cairo's director of security for the Sinai sector, told Egyptian media that the rockets fired at Eilat did not emanate from Sinai.
Hefnawy said that "the situation in the southern sector is excellent. There are regular patrols and stakeouts across all roads. If anyone seems suspect they are stopped for inspections meant to stop any terrorist elements from entering the area."
He claimed that Egyptian border patrols are constantly present across the sector and that the Egyptian-Israeli border was "intensively secured."
No one had detected a flash of light or sound overnight on Wednesday, he said.
Observers note Egypt has a vested interest in claiming the rockets did not originate in Sinai due to the more aggressive deterrent posture announced by IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz following the attack.
Officials in Israel say the Sinai has become a base for Islamist terror groups since former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's downfall last year.
"For a long while now we have been seeing that the Sinai peninsula is turning into a launching pad against the citizens of Israel, for terror," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the attack.
IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi echoed Netanyahu’s assessment on Thursday, saying the rocket fire underscored that "Israel must prepare to face threats and instability that could last for years" due to political upheaval in the region.
"The rocket fire on Eilat originated in Sinai and represents a fundamental change in the region," Kochavi said. "The Middle East has the highest pace of armament in the world, which is changing its ultimate character beyond recognition."
The rocket attack on Eilat came one day before the start of the Passover holiday, which commemorates the exodus of the biblical Israelites from slavery in Egypt and the forging of the Jewish nation.
No physical injuries were reported after the rockets struck Eilat, but the incident security concerns about cross border attacks and led senior defense officials to place the IDF on its highest state of alert for the holiday.
In August of 2010, five Katyusha rockets hit the city of Eilat. Two exploded in open areas and three fell into the sea. No injuries were reported.
Rockets were also fired at Eilat in April of 2010. One landed in the sea, and one hit the Jordanian city of Aqaba
The Israel-Egypt border had been relatively quiet since the two countries signed a peace agreement in 1979, but in the past year the Sinai has become a staging ground for terrorism against Israel.
Two weeks ago, the Israel Security Agency (ISA) arrested a Hamas terrorist operating in Sinai who planned to kidnap an IDF soldier and aid in a suicide bombing in Eilat.
Mahmed Abu Aadram was captured as he attempted to infiltrate into Israel with other terrorists.
In August 2011, terrorists from Sinai staged a cross-border ambush of a civilian Israeli bus on Route 12 near Eilat, killing 8 Israelis.
In early March, Israel uncovered a plan by the Popular Resistance Committees to attempt a new attack on Route 12. Israel killed the PRC head – Zuhir Qaisi – In an airstrike, which led to a dramatic exchange of fire as Gaza's terror gangs fired over 200 rockets at Israel's southern communities.
Israeli airstrikes targeting teams of terrorists launching rockets from densely populated areas killed 26, of whom at least 21 were terrorists.
IDF officials say the terror groups were attempting to use Gaza's civilians as "human shields" in violation of the rules of war.
The ceasefire brokered four days into the exchange has not come into full effect.