Israel’s “Iron Dome” air defense system shot down a rocket headed for the southern Israeli port of Eilat. The rocket was fired from the Sinai peninsula, and a Sinai-based jihadist group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, has claimed responsibility.
Residents reported hearing two strong blasts after air raid sirens sounded. There were no reports of injuries or property damage.
A similar attack had happened eleven days earlier, as a pair of rockets originating from the Sinai fell harmlessly into unpopulated open areas of Eilat. While these attacks have proved harmless, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Wednesday that "the difference between a missile hitting the sea or hitting the Meridien Hotel [in Eilat] is merely a statistical matter”—meaning that so far the city had benefited from the haphazard targeting of the rockets. In the earlier attack, Eilat’s air alarm system did not sound. The city also suffered two rocket attacks in 2013, one in April and one in August.
The attack comes during a widespread operation by the Egyptian army against terrorist groups in the Sinai region. Some reports have claimed a serious intensification of the fighting between the army and militants in the peninsula in the past few days. Some of the militant groups are known to be identified with Al-Qaeda, though it is not clear whether this includes Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the group that’s taken credit for this attack.
The Iron Dome is a mobile all-weather air defense system designed to shoot down rockets and artillery shells fired from between 4 and 70 kilometers (2.5 to 43 miles). It was first deployed in 2011 and has had a strong record of effectiveness, shooting down an estimated 90% of rockets destined for populated areas in its first year of deployment. This statistic has prompted defense reporter Mark Thompson to declare that "lack of Israeli casualties suggests Iron Dome is the most-effective, most-tested missile shield the world has ever seen."
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