Israel vows payback for Hamas after Eilat attack

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 5, 2010

Israel has said it will retaliate against Hamas after two attacks by Grad missiles on Ashkelon and Eilat in the space of three days heightened tension in the south of Israel.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyanhu told Israelis in a TV broadcast that the terrorist organisation was responsible for the attacks on Israel and another on Jordan's Red Sea port of Aqaba, where one man died.

At first, the defence establishment believed that the missiles had been launched by jihadist movements. It was also admitted on Wednesday by Egyptian authorities that the rockets had been fired from its territory, in a reversal of previous denials.

Mr Netanyahu said: "I want to make very clear to Hamas and to the Lebanese government that we view them as responsible for the violent provocation against us. Don't test our determination to protect our citizens.

"Israel will retaliate for every assault. Apparently there were those who understood that and tried to avoid taking responsibility for these crimes.

"Three days after our retaliatory operation in Gaza, Grad rockets were fired from Sinai at Eilat and Aqaba by a seemingly anonymous organisation.

"Several months earlier, on April 22, similar rocket fire came from Sinai. We investigated the two incidents. It became clear beyond a doubt that Hamas' military wing in Gaza had perpetrated both attacks under disguise."

The Friday morning attack on Ashkelon, launched from the Gaza Strip, included a single Grad rocket which hit a residential area causing extensive damage but no casualties.In retaliation, the IDF attacked terror targets in Gaza from the air .

On Monday, six Grad missiles were launched from within the Sinai peninsula in Egypt, towards the Red Sea coast. Only one hit Eilat, causing no damage when it landed in an empty area in the north of the city.

The attack on Eilat and Aqaba emphasises the precarious security situation in Sinai and the lack of success of Egyptian security forces.

Over the past two years, terror cells belonging to Hamas, Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaeda have all operated in Sinai.

"This attack was against Israel and Jordan," said one senior IDF officer, "but with the current situation in Sinai, the main objective may have been to humiliate the Egyptians."

Last updated: 2:26pm, August 11 2010