Drone strikes Eilat naval base in Israel as Iraqi militia claims attack

Iran-backed group says it hit a 'vital target'

Eilat is home to Israeli energy infrastructure, a port and a small naval base. Reuters
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A drone struck the southern Israeli port city of Eilat early on Sunday morning, hitting a naval base in the first successful strike on the city since the Gaza war began in October.

The attack, which caused no casualties and only lightly damaged the building, followed what the Israeli army said was a “suspicious aerial target that entered Israeli territory from the east” which struck “in the Eilat Bay area”.

Images on social media showed smoke billowing from a distinctive warehouse next to a small dock that is regularly used by Israeli Navy Corvettes, a class of small warship.

Drone strikes Israeli port city of Eilat

Drone strikes Israeli port city of Eilat

The army later confirmed the drone struck a naval base in the city and confirmed minor damage at the site.

The incident is being investigated, it added.

Eilat is home to Israeli energy infrastructure, a port and small naval base and has been a frequent target of Houthi drone and missile attacks, but until now drones and missiles targeting the city have been shot down.

In one case last month, a Houthi cruise missile was monitored by Israeli air defences before crashing in an open area.

The attack may have been the work of an Iraqi militia, after the Israeli military said the weapon had “come from the east”, which in Eilat would mean Jordan, as opposed to Houthi drone flight paths from the south.

On Monday, the Islamic Resistance, a small coalition of Iraqi militias that includes Kataib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful Iran-backed groups in a network of Tehran-backed units called the Popular Mobilisation Forces, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The group said it had struck a “vital target” in Israel.

Iran-backed militias in Iraq have claimed a number of drone attacks against Israel in recent months. They say that they are working in solidarity with Hamas in the war in Gaza. However, there has been no visual evidence of their attacks.

The groups have also come under frequent air attacks in Syria, where they maintain a network of bases that the US says are used to store weapons such as drones and missiles.

The US has claimed some of the air strikes, but denied being involved in others. Israel rarely comments on individual strikes but has admitted to the ongoing air campaign in Syria.

Recent videos by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq show drones similar to the Iranian Shahed model being fired from launching rails. The drones have claimed ranges of up to about 2,000 kilometres, putting Eilat within reach of the group.

Updated: April 02, 2024, 5:06 AM