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Israel shoots down rocket targeting

A retired Israeli security official said it was the first time Israel's Iron Dome interceptor system had struck a missile fired at Eilat.

"It's not the first time that a rocket has been fired at Eilat, but it is the first time the Iron Dome has intercepted one," Dani Arditi, former national security adviser told Army Radio.

Israel briefly shut its airport in the city on Thursday citing threats from militants in Sinai involved in a standing confrontation with the Egyptian military.

Israel has also boosted its rocket defenses near its southern border with Egypt.

VIOLENCE SPIKES

Violence in Sinai picked up after former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, an ally of Israel, was toppled in 2011. It has increased again since last month's military overthrow of Mubarak's successor, Islamist president Mohamed Mursi.

Magles Shoura al-Mujahideen, a hardline Islamist faction which also has a small presence in the Gaza Strip, said it fired the missile at Eilat.

"In a swift response to the latest crime of the Jews that killed 4 Mujahideen in the land of Sinai through a strike by a pilotless plane, the lions of Maglis Shoura al-Mujahideen ... were able to strike the occupied city of Om al-Rashash "Eilat" with a rocket," it said in a statement published online.

"We assure that neither Eilat nor any other Israeli cities will be blessed with security, tourism or economy," it added.

Eilat's mayor said there had been no panic.

"I think the military prepared in the best possible way with an enhanced defensive shield to protect Eilat and tourists including the (Iron Dome) battery... I and my citizens feel secure," Meir Yitzhak-Halevy told Army Radio.

Al Qaeda accused Israel of carrying out Friday's missile strike in Sinai but Israel dismissed the accusation. Egypt's armed forces said one of its helicopters fired the missile at al Qaeda fighters.

The Sinai was largely demilitarized as part of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty of 1979. But Israel has allowed Egypt to send troops to the area to combat the militants and arms smuggling by Palestinians into Gaza.

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