Chicken coop damaged by rocket
A chicken coop in the Negev seriously damaged by rocket fire from Gaza, April 8, 2011. Photo by Ronen Engel
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As the rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israel continued Friday, the Iron Dome missile intercepted three Grad rockets that were fired toward Ashkelon.

The rockets were fired near the southern Israel city on Friday afternoon. In addition to the three intercepted rockets, one rocket fell in an open area near Ashkelon. No one was hurt.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised the Israel Air Force and the defense industries responsible for the deployment of the Iron Dome missile defense system Friday, commending them for using the system to successfully intercept rockets launched at southern Israel from Gaza.

"This is an exceptional achievement of the Israel defense industries and the air force," Barak said in a statement Friday.

The defense minister's statement came after a barrage of rockets and mortar shells was fired at Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip on Friday. The rocket attack followed an Israeli air strike in the strip that reportedly killed four Hamas militants and five Palestinian civilians.

One of the shells exploded in a chicken coop in the Eshkol Regional Council in the Negev. The rest of the mortars fell in an open area, causing no damage or casualties.

Later Friday, two mortars fell in a Negev town, and two additional mortars fell in open areas. None were hurt, but the mortars fell near homes and additional chicken coops, causing damage.

Barak also paid tribute in his statement Friday to the recently appointed Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, who was adamant that the missile defense system be deployed to protect Israel's southern residents, despite it being at the experimental operational stage.

"The experimental deployment [of Iron Dome] will continue," said Barak, "however it is important to bear in mind that we are far from a total solution."

He continued, saying "I am sure the accumulation of Iron Dome's achievements will end the ongoing argument about whether or not Israel needs a multi-layer missile defense system once and for all."