Mysterious Rocket Hits Jordan

A rocket launched from outside Jordan struck a refrigerated warehouse in the country’s Red Sea port city of Aqaba, officials said Thursday.

After an investigation, the cause of the explosion was the fall of a (Soviet-made) Grad rocket from outside Jordanian territory. The rocket was not launched from Jordanian territory,” Nabil Sharif, minister of state for information, told Reuters, without giving further details.

Witnesses and a Jordanian security source officer said two rockets were fired from the Jordanian port of Aqaba, just east of Israel’s resort city of Eilat, but it landed on the empty warehouse. The minister did not mention a second rocket.

Al-Sharif, who is also a government spokesman, told The Associated Press the rocket damaged a refrigerated warehouse on Aqaba’s northern outskirts. No deaths or injuries were reported.

Aqaba residents reported hearing at least two early morning explosions in the city. The damaged warehouse was at an industrial complex at the entrance of Aqaba, 210 miles (350 kilometres) south of the Jordanian capital, Amman.

“We saw a ball of fire that struck a warehouse at an entrance of the city,” said one witness who was performing dawn prayers at a mosque in the early morning. (Reuters)

Another said he heard an explosion minutes after he saw what resembled a rocket hit a warehouse. “There was a strong explosion but we couldn’t see anything beyond that.” (Reuters)

Israeli media also reported that two rockets hit Aqaba and Israel’s nearby port of Eilat. The Israeli army said it searched the Eilat area after the reports surfaced but found no evidence of anything landing in Israel.

Earlier Thursday, police said they found remains of what they thought was a Katyusha rocket. They said they were trying to determine the launch site and who might have been behind the attack.

Egyptian sources denied that the rockets were fired from Sinai. An Egyptian security source in north Sinai said on condition of anonymity that security patrols along the Egypt-Israel border had detected no rocket launchers toward Israel from the north or central Sinai.

Abdul Fadheel Shousha, governor of South Sinai province, said it would be virtually impossible to fire rockets into Israel from southern Sinai into Israel for technical reasons.

Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979.

The incident occurred as jitters were high a week after Israel issued an “urgent” warning to its citizens to leave Egypt’s nearby Sinai Peninsula immediately, citing “concrete evidence of an expected terrorist attempt to kidnap Israelis in Sinai.” (The Associated Press)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II was in neighbouring Egypt on Thursday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak. It was not immediately clear whether the leaders would discuss the attack.

“We are 100% sure that the rocket which hit a warehouse in Aqaba was not fired from Jordanian territory, but from beyond our borders,” Prime MInister Samir Rifai told AFP news agency. (BBC)

In 2005, al-Qaeda terrorists used the area to fire Katyusha rockets at a U.S. warship docked in the port there. The rockets missed the ship but hit a Jordanian army warehouse, killing a Jordanian soldier. Eight al-Qaeda terrorists were arrested and later received prison terms from seven years to death sentences.

In 2007, a Palestinian suicide bomber infiltrated through the Sinai and killed three people at an Eilat bakery.

Jordan, which made peace with Israel in 1994, is one of a handful of Arab countries to have diplomatic ties with Israel. Those ties were frayed by Israel’s crackdown in 2000 on a Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel’s anti-terror office issued a warning last week and maintains a standing travel advisory telling Israelis to stay out of the Sinai desert because of the threat of terror attacks.

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