Jihadists claim Sinai rocket fire on Israel’s Eilat resort

Updated 18 April 2013
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Jihadists claim Sinai rocket fire on Israel’s Eilat resort

JERUSALEM: At least two Grad rockets fired from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula exploded in the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat on Wednesday, causing no casualties, in an attack claimed by a jihadist group.
It was the first rocket attack on the southern resort city in eight months, with the Israeli army saying they were fired from the Egyptian Sinai, although there was no immediate confirmation from Cairo where a senior military official said troops were “investigating” the incident.
As news of the rocket fire emerged, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who is in London for the funeral of Britain’s Margaret Thatcher — held a telephone consultation with the security establishment on “how to react,” his office said.
Several hours later, a group called the Mujahedeen Shoura Council posted a statement online saying its militants had “managed to target occupied Eilat with two Grad rockets” without saying where they were fired from.
The attack took place as Palestinians were marking Prisoners’ Day in solidarity with the thousands of inmates held by Israel, with the group saying the rockets were a “response to the continued suffering of the downtrodden prisoners in Israeli jails.”
The rockets struck shortly after 9 a.m. (0600 GMT), both landing inside the city but without causing injuries, Israeli police said.
“We’ve found two explosion sites in the city, we’ve also closed off the airport as a precaution,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, later saying that Eilat’s tiny international airport had been reopened.
One rocket hit a construction site in the Shahamon neighborhood, while the second struck an open area close to the Jordan border, just east of the main hotel strip, local residents said.
At the start of April, fears of an imminent rocket attack from Sinai prompted the military to move a battery of Israel’s vaunted Iron Dome anti-missile system to the Eilat area, a defense official confirmed on Wednesday.
“There were warnings of possible firings, and they decided to shift the system to there,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
But an Israeli security source said the system did not engage to intercept the rockets.
“Due to operational circumstances, the battery located in the area did not intercept the incoming rockets,” the source said, without elaborating.
Israeli media reports also said two rockets had landed in the nearby Jordanian resort of Aqaba, in reports denied by Amman.
“All military and security services in Aqaba have confirmed that nothing happened in Aqaba. It was only on the other side,” Amer Sartawi, spokesman for Jordan’s Public Security Department, told AFP.
At least two Aqaba residents contacted by AFP said they were unaware of any rockets landing in the city.
Eilat lies on the northernmost point of the Gulf of Aqaba, a narrow stretch of water bordered on one side by the Sinai and the other by Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Last April, a rocket fired from Sinai hit Eilat but caused no casualties, with police finding another unexploded rocket near the city days later.
In August, another two rockets rocked Eilat, again injuring no-one.
That attack was claimed by another Salafist group called Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis which said it had fired two Grad rockets at the city.
Since the collapse of the regime of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, Israel’s border with Sinai has seen multiple security incidents, with militants using the lawless peninsula to stage attacks on the Jewish state.
The most serious incident was in August 2011, when gunmen infiltrated southern Israel and staged a series of ambushes that killed eight Israelis.
Over the past few years, there has been intermittent rocket fire on Eilat from Sinai.
So far, no-one has been injured but in August 2010, one landed in Aqaba, killing a taxi driver.


Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of FireEye, during a presentation about the APT33 in Dubai Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

  • The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.
  • Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

DUBAI: An Iranian government-aligned group of hackers launched a major campaign targeting Mideast energy firms and others ahead of US sanctions on Iran, a cybersecurity firm said Tuesday, warning further attacks remain possible as America reimposes others on Tehran.

While the firm FireEye says the so-called “spear-phishing” email campaign only involves hackers stealing information from infected computers, it involves a similar type of malware previously used to inject a program that destroyed tens of thousands of terminals in Saudi Arabia.

The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.

“Whenever we see Iranian threat groups active in this region, particularly in line with geopolitical events, we have to be concerned they might either be engaged in or pre-positioning for a disruptive attack,” Alister Shepherd, a director for a FireEye subsidiary, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

“Iran’s cyber capabilities are purely defensive, and these claims made by private firms are a form of false advertising designed to attract clients,” the mission said in a statement. “They should not be taken at face value.”

FireEye, which often works with governments and large corporations, refers to the group of Iranian hackers as APT33, an acronym for “advanced persistent threat.” APT33 used phishing email attacks with fake job opportunities to gain access to the companies affected, faking domain names to make the messages look legitimate. Analysts described the emails as “spear-phishing” as they appear targeted in nature.

FireEye first discussed the group last year around the same time. This year, the company briefed journalists after offering presentations to potential government clients in Dubai at a luxury hotel and yacht club on the man-made, sea-horse-shaped Daria Island.

While acknowledging their sales pitch, FireEye warned of the danger such Iranian government-aligned hacking groups pose. Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Shamoon in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time making the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war.

But Iran first found itself as a victim of a cyberattack. Iran developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

APT33’s emails haven’t been destructive. However, from July 2 through July 29, FireEye saw “a by-factors-of-10 increase” in the number of emails the group sent targeting their clients, Shepherd said.