It was a baptism of fire for the new defence battery
Israeli soldiers reload an Iron Dome defence system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in the Israeli city of Ashdod on November 16. A newly installed battery of Israel's Iron Dome defence system successfully intercepted a Gaza rocket aimed at Tel Aviv Saturday, officials said, as sirens wailed across the city for a third straight day. © David Buimovitch - AFP
It was a baptism of fire for the new defence battery
Last updated: November 18, 2012

New Iron Dome intercepts rocket over Tel Aviv

Gaza militants fired two rockets at Tel Aviv on Saturday, one hitting open ground without causing casualties and the other being intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defence system, officials said.

It was the third straight day that air raid sirens had wailed across the city, sparking panic in Israel's commercial metropolis.

Traffic ground to a halt as people ran for cover, pressing themselves against the sides of buildings in search of shelter, AFP correspondents reported.

Police declined to disclose the precise location of the rocket hit, saying only that it was within greater Tel Aviv and that there were no casualties or damage. On Thursday, police said a rocket struck an open area near Rishon LeTzion, about 15 kilometres (nine miles) south of Tel Aviv.

Israel's Channel 10 television showed live footage of Iron Dome firing twice at the other incoming rocket from a battery that was only installed earlier in the day.

"The Fajr 5 heavy rocket that Hamas just launched at Tel Aviv was intercepted by the new fifth battery of Iron Dome," said Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for the prime minister's office, on his official Twitter account.

"No casualties or damage."

Hamas militants from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades confirmed they were behind the rocket fire, saying they had launched an Iranian-built Fajr 5 rocket at Tel Aviv.

It was a baptism of fire for the new defence battery installed in the Tel Aviv region earlier on Saturday in a deployment pulled forward by two months in the face of the rocket fire from Gaza where Israel is pressing a deadly air campaign.

Over the past 72 hours, the Israeli army says militants have fired more than 600 rockets over the border, of which 430 hit and 245 were intercepted by Iron Dome.

Commentators said that the system's performance gave Israel's leaders more political room to manoeuvre, perhaps reducing pressure for a major ground offensive.

"Iron Dome simply changes the game," Channel 10 said.

There are now five operational batteries of Iron Dome, with the other four based near Beersheva, the coastal cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod and the desert town of Netivot.

It was the third day running that a rocket from Gaza had reached Tel Aviv.

On Thursday, a rocket crashed into the sea off Jaffa port in the southern part of the city, in what Israeli networks said was the first time Tel Aviv had come under fire since the 1991 Gulf War, when it was hit by Iraqi Scud missiles.

On Friday a missile plunged into the sea again, this time just off the city centre's main beachfront.

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