Israel shoots down rocket near Egypt

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JERUSALEM -- The Israeli military on Tuesday shot down a rocket launched from neighboring Egypt toward a popular Red Sea resort, and an al-Qaida-linked militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, fueling concerns that jihadist groups are trying to disrupt the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.

It was the first time that Israel has deployed its "Iron Dome" rocket defense system in Eilat, a normally placid resort near Egypt's Sinai peninsula that is popular with Israeli and European tourists.

The incident came after days of heightened tension along the Egypt-Israel border, fueled by an Egyptian crackdown on militant groups. The area has experienced increased militant activity since the ouster of longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak two years ago.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said the Iron Dome system shot down a Grad-style Katyusha rocket fired from Egypt after midnight. There were no injuries. He said it was "no coincidence" that Iron Dome had been deployed near Eilat.

"In general in Sinai now, as we have seen for a long time, there is radical Islamic terror there that mainly attacks the Egyptian military and police, but is also trying to attack us," Mr. Yaalon told reporters during a stop in northern Israel.

Last Thursday, Israel briefly closed Eilat's airport in response to unspecified security warnings. The following day, five men believed to be Islamic militants were killed in the Sinai, and a rocket launcher there was reportedly destroyed, according to Egyptian officials. Egyptian security officials attributed Friday's strike to a drone fired from the Israeli side of the border, but Israel has remained silent about the attack.

Two militant websites posted a statement by an al-Qaida-linked group claiming responsibility for Tuesday's attack. The Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem has claimed to carry out similar attacks in the past, and the statement included details about the strike, including the type of rocket and the time it was fired.

Another group, Ansar Jerusalem, earlier sent an email claiming that it had fired the rocket. But the group's statement did not appear on the militant websites, which are often used by al-Qaida and other extremists to publish information.

Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979, and while relations have never been warm, the agreement has been a cornerstone of regional security for the past three decades. But Israeli concerns have been rising since Mubarak was toppled. While security cooperation with Egypt's military remains strong, al-Qaida-linked groups and other militants have exploited a power vacuum and stepped up their activities.

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