Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Iron Dome intercepts Eilat-bound rocket

From Ynetnews.com, 13 Aug 2013, by Meir Ohayon:

Shortly before 1 am siren sounds in Israel's southern city.
Iron Dome intercepts rocket headed for inhabited area...

The Iron Dome defense system, deployed last month in Eilat, intercepted a rocket aimed at an inhabited area in the region on early morning Wednesday. Magen David Adom reported two persons were treated for anxiety attacks.

Shortly before 1 am a siren was heard in Israel's southernmost city and residents reported they heard echoes of two explosions in the area. The IDF and the police are canvassing the area and so far no further landing sites were found.

Noi, 22, who works in a hotel in the city, said she heard several explosions. "People were running from the rooms to the stairs after the siren was activated," she recounted.

"The hotel has a shelter in the bottom floor, but it is still relevant as far as response time is concerned. During the siren we heard the explosions."

The explosions were also heard in Eilat's Shahamon neighborhood. Chen, 35, said she heard "two bangs. It's stressful, we were woken up, and now will sleep in the bomb shelter."

Last Thursday the airspace in the area was shut down for two hours, due to a security assessment.

Last month the IDF deployed an Iron Dome battery in Eilat. The battery was deployed at the height of the tourist season for fear the city would become the target of rocket fire. The IDF has arranged that the city's siren system be connected to the alert systems installed on the Israel-Egypt border, so that rockets launched toward the city will trigger the siren system.

Over the last two weeks the worldwide alert has been raised due to concerns of a coordinated al-Qaeda attack. Among others, the US embassy in Tel Aviv was shut down.

According to reports, the reason for the raised alert was a conference call held by al-Qaeda heads worldwide.

Following the US's lead, Western delegations in the Arab world and in Africa were closed down, while concerns focused on a possible attack in Yemen.     According to the Daily Beast, the presence of aspiring al-Qaeda affiliated groups operating in Sinai was a major factor in the State Department's call to close the US embassy in Tel Aviv, the report quoted one US intelligence official as saying.

“These guys already proved they could hit Eilat. It’s not out of the range of possibilities that they could hit us in Tel Aviv,” the official said.

This is not the first time that Eilat suffered rocket fire this summer. About a month ago a rocket was fired from Sinai into Israeli territory, and five days later the IDF found the landing site in an open terrain near Eilat.  

Last April two rockets were fired at the city, causing no injury or damage. That was the first time a siren was heard in the city.