Jerusalem (Xinhua): Israel on Sunday started deploying two batteries of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system in southern the country, in a bid to foil longer-range Kassam and Grad rockets from putting over a million Israelis within striking range in major urban areas.
The 200 million U.S. dollars system will be put near Beersheba in the Negev and near Ashkelon along the coast. Both cities have come under Grad rocket fire in recent weeks, wounding several residents, causing damage, and forcing city officials to open bomb shelters and close schools.
Each of Iron Dome’s radar and missile system batteries includes three launchers and 20 missiles, meant to cover a four to 70 kilometer area.
The deployment will be ongoing “in the coming days,” and “will not be permanent, allowing the systems to be moved between areas according to evolving security assessments,” said a statement issued by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned Palestinian militants in Gaza that, while Israel doesn’t want to see an escalation in violence after last week’s rocket barrages on Israeli cities met with IDF air and artillery counter-strikes, further attacks on Israel will not be tolerated.
“In the last two weeks there have been parties attempting to disturb peace and security,” Netanyahu said before beginning the weekly cabinet session, but added that “we don’t want to escalate the situation but we will not hesitate to activate the strength of the IDF.”
The comments came after a sharp escalation along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip since last weekend, with repeated rocket and mortar fire into Israeli cities and communities adjacent to the coastal enclave, and retaliatory strikes by the IDF.
Israeli warplanes struck the Gaza Strip early Sunday and killed two Palestinians and wounded three others, whom were said to be members of an Islamic Jihad rocket crew, according to Palestinian sources and the IDF Spokesman’s Office.
Several Palestinian factions, including the Islamic Hamas movement, on Saturday expressed commitment to an agreement to restore calm with Israel.