Israel’s newest rocket interceptor ‘Iron Dome’ was tested today in combat for the first time, intercepting GRAD rockets fired by the Palestinians from the Gaza strip. The ‘Iron Dome’ battery positioned near Ashkelon is one of two sites recently deployed in the Northern Negev, protecting population centers against rocket attacks. On Friday, the same unit successfully intercepted a salvo of three GRAD rockets fired at the city. Effectively closing the targeting loop seeking the rocket launchers, IAF strikes succeeded in hitting some of the launch teams before escaping the sites.

On its first combat encounter Rafael's Iron Dome rocket interceptor scored a double-kill, intercepting Palestinian GRAD missiles frired from Gaza against the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Photo: Noam Eshel, Defense Update

The Multi Mission Radar (MMR) operating in the area detected the launch of rockets fired from Gaza toward Ashkelon and triggered ‘code Red’ alert sending the city to the shelters. Simultaneously, ‘Iron Dome’ went into action, Assessing the projected impact point of some of the rockets to be within the protected area, the battery launched its interceptors to defeat the specific rockets posing a potential risk, scoring direct hits. Identifying the Palestinian rockets’ launch point, the IAF conducted an air attack targeting the location. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has escalated in recent weeks, as Palestinians fired rockets at the city of Beer Sheva.

Earlier this week Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak requested the Israeli Government to allocate funding for the acquisition of five additional Iron Dome batteries. Funding for seven batteries was approved last year by the U.S. Congress but the actual funding was not allocated yet.

Today, the Palestinians further increased the level of fishes, firing an AT-15 Kornet anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus transporting children back from school, wounding the driver and one passenger on board, a 15 year schoolboy. The attack was followed by intensive Qasam (improvised rockets) and mortar fire throughout the region. By introducing such precision weapon against a civilian target, the attack triggering an escalated Israeli response by firing artillery and direct fire by helicopter gunships.

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