In Ashkelon, rocket fire is normal.

Israel's Iron Dome system helps minimise impact of rocket barrage


Ashkelon, Wednesday

In Ashkelon yesterday the streets were nearly deserted as many residents stayed home, children out of school and shops shuttered during a day in which the country faced barrage after barrage of rocket fire. 

Ashkelon is around an hour drive from Israel’s main metropolitan area of Tel Aviv and the capital, Jerusalem. It is normally a pleasant city abutting the sea, home of an archaeology park and masses of apartments. However Hamas has shifted its policies over the years as its rockets increase their range, from targeting Sderot on the Gaza border to aiming at Israel’s larger cities.

For many residents here the rocket fire is normal; they have suffered for years. But many people still lack a secure room in their house. In one community in southern Ashkelon, there is a shelter for several homes. Shaped like a large white armoured caravan, it accommodates children and adults.

When the sirens sounded yesterday, a low throbbing hum heard throughout the city, a bus stopped and passengers got out to get to the shelter. We could watch in the sky as smoke trails from Iron Dome interceptors - small missiles - flew towards the Hamas rockets, exploding high over our heads.  

By nightfall Israel’s death toll had risen as two women were killed in Ashkelon and rocket impacts destroyed a bus in Holon and killed a woman in Rishon LeZion, an Israel city near Tel Aviv.  

Israel has now faced more than 1,000 rockets fired from Gaza since 10 May. The rocket fire has been directed by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the two main factions that have stockpiles of rockets.

The massive volume of rocket fire from Gaza, including one instance where more than 100 rockets were fired in five minutes, left many concerned that the rockets might overwhelm Israel’s defences. But the Iron Dome air defence system was able to intercept most of the rockets that threaten civilian areas. The system is designed to detect the rocket launch and plot a trajectory so that only rockets that may hit sensitive infrastructure or civilians are intercepted, while others may fall harmlessly in a field.


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