BEERSHEBA, Israel — Israeli aircraft struck a Palestinian rocket squad in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, killing two militants as the military activated a new defense system to shoot down incoming rockets.
Islamic Jihad, a militant group that frequently attacks Israel, confirmed two members were killed in the airstrike, while a third was critically wounded. The group did not specify whether they were in the process of launching rockets. Gaza militants, including Islamic Jihad and the territory’s Hamas rulers, had said over the weekend that they would halt their fire if Israel did. It was not clear whether they were reneging on that pledge or whether the air strike hit a rogue group of militants ignoring the cease-fire overture.
A spokesman for Gaza’s Hamas-run interior ministry, Ihab Ghussein, accused Israel of seeking to perpetuate the violence. But Hamas government spokesman Taher Nunu urged all militant factions to halt their fire as agreed.
Iron Dome deployed
Weeks of stepped-up rocket and mortar attacks have drawn fears of renewed war and led to new calls in Israel for the military to deploy the $200 million Iron Dome anti-rocket system. The Israeli military said the system began operating on Sunday near Beersheba, southern Israel’s largest city. A second anti-missile battery will be deployed in another large southern city, Ashdod, the military added, without specifying an exact date.
The Israeli-developed system uses cameras and radar to track incoming rockets and is supposed to shoot them down within seconds of their launch. It has functioned properly in a series of tests.
Brig. Gen. Doron Gavish, commander of the air defense corps in the Israeli air force, told reporters that the Iron Dome was to have been deployed later in the year, but was put into operation earlier because of the new rocket attacks from Gaza.” source – MSNBC