Iron Dome does it again; Gaza rockets intercepted
Watch exclusive video: IDF's first-of-its kind anti-rocket system intercepts missile fired at Ashkelon. Assault on southern Israel continues Saturday, local communities under heavy fire as dozens of rockets, mortar shells hit area. Alert level in south raised to 3 out of 4, just short of wartime deployment
Iron Dome's successful interception at around 5:40 pm Saturday was captured on camera by Ynet photographer Roee Idan. The army later said that an IDF aircraft hit the terror cell that launched the intercepted rocket and several others.
Also Saturday, Palestinian sources reported that an IDF aircraft fired a missile towards a terrorist cell east of Gaza City, killing one of the militants and injuring three. According to the report, the cell belonged to the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees.
In the video, the incoming missile can be seen as the anti-rocket alarm is activated in the backdrop. A loud noise similar to a jet taking off marks the activation of the Iron Dome system, followed by an explosion in the sky as the rocket is intercepted.
Notably, Iron Dome has been designed to only fire at rockets heading towards population centers. The system is capable of calculating the course of incoming missiles, identifying those expected to land in open areas and refraining from targeting them.
South under heavy fire; alert level raised
Later Saturday, a major barrage of rockets was fired at Ashkelon, with Iron Dome again proving its capabilities and intercepting some of the incoming missiles. Meanwhile, two mortar shells landed in the Eshkol region council, damaging a structure but causing no injuries.
A local spokeswoman said that a water pipe was hit and that the water supply to one kibbutz in the region may be disrupted.
Overall, some 50 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel communities during by Saturday evening, police officials said. There were no injuries reported, after the Iron Dome system intercepted at least 10 incoming rockets over the weekend. Overall, more than 120 projectiles were fired on Israel's south in the past 48 hours.
Southern residents take cover rockets come in (Photo: AFP)
Following a situation assessment, officials have decided to raise the alert level in southern Israel to the second-highest, 3 out of 4. Notably, alert level 4 is reserved for wartime. Following the decision, local police will be reinforced with officers from other regions, as well as volunteers and Border Guard troops. Roadblocks will also be set up in the area and sapper teams will be boosted.
"The entire district is under threat; all cities are under threat," Koby Cohen, the deputy commander of the police's southern district, told Ynet. "The area around Gaza is even more dangerous and we'll be placing roadblocks there, so that people who don't need to be in the region won't be there."
Referring to the ongoing rocket and mortar attacks, Cohen said: "We estimate that it won't end in the coming days. It keeps on intensifying all the time."
'More rockets than during Gaza war'
Another rocket exploded earlier near a kibbutz in the Shaar Hanegev regional council. The council's security chief, Yoav Peled, told Ynet Saturday that terror groups have been directing barrages into the same areas in recent days.
"They are firing four to five mortar shells at every community," he said. "Yesterday, eight mortar shells were fired, right after the other, at one community in the region. Even during Operation Cast Lead we did not see this scope of attacks as we saw in the entire region over the weekend."
Ynet reader Michael Yosefe documented interception
Peled noted that while many rockets and mortar shells landed in open areas and did not cause any casualties, "in the past we paid a very heavy price when they hit homes and people."
Meanwhile, the IDF continues to hunt down rocket -launching cells, which military officials say are operating out of civilian population centers and taking cover in densely crowded areas.
"When Palestinian civilians are killed in these kinds of strikes, the population should only complain to Hamas, which continues to turn its own citizens into a protective vest," a military official said earlier.
Hanan Greenberg, Elior Levy and Ilana Curiel contributed to the story
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