The Israeli government used an anti-rocket system for the first time on Thursday, successfully intercepting a rocket fired from Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said.
The interception by Israel’s Iron Dome marks the first time government forces intercepted a short-range rocket in history, according to IDF.
“Immediately afterwards, [Israeli Air Force] aircraft targeted a rocket-launching terrorist cell. A hit was identified,” the statement added.
The new anti-missile system was set up last month in southern Israel, which has recently been barraged by rockets fired by Palestinian militants.
According to the Haaretz newspaper, the Thursday rocket was apparently heading toward Ashkelon, where the anti-missile system was positioned.
Iron Dome uses radar and cameras to track incoming projectiles and apparently is able to take them down within a few seconds. The system is operated by aerial defense troops and is going through an initial, operational trial that began Sunday.
Other than missiles, the IDF says Iron Dome can also destroy mortar shells as they are heading toward Israeli territory.
There are currently two Iron Dome batteries deployed in southern Israel. One was deployed on Monday.
“The Iron Dome will provide sound protection against missile and rocket fire at the residents of Israel’s southern communities, however, it is not hermetic,” Aerial Defense Network Commander, Brig. Gen. Doron Gavish, stated on Monday.
Despite the rocket interception, Gaza militants fired an anti-tank missile at a school bus in Nahal Oz. One teenager was critically injured. The Home Front Command instructed locals living near the border with the Gaza Strip to enter protected areas in case of further attacks.
IDF reports that at about the same as the bus attack, 16 mortar shells were fired from Gaza into the western Negev region.
The attack prompted Israeli security forces to respond swiftly, striking various locations throughout the Gaza Strip. Three people were killed in the retaliation and eight people—including a 4-year-old girl—were injured.
In all, 45 rockets and mortar shells were fired in Israel from the Gaza Strip within a span of three hours on Thursday, reported the Jerusalem Post.