rocket - Eliyahu Hershkovitz - March 26 2011
Home damaged by Qassam rocket in western Negev community, March 26, 2011. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
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A Qassam rocket landed and exploded outside a family home in a community in the western Negev region overnight Friday. No casualties were reported as a result of the rocket, but the family home suffered considerable damage.

The home was located in the Eshkol Regional Council, a community in the western Negev where homes still do not have government-mandated specially reinforced rooms to help protect residents from rocket attacks.

A second rocket fell in an open field nearby, causing no damage to people or property.

Cross-border tensions between Israel and Gaza have been escalating recently, the latest being two Grad rockets and a Qassam fired at southern Israel from Gaza on Thursday. One of the rockets struck north of Ashdod and could be heard in Yavneh, some 25 kilometers from Tel Aviv.

The rocket attacks came hours after Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz announced the activation of the Iron Dome defense system in the south of the country. Barak said he approved the deployment of the system as an operational experiment and the IDF has said it will be operational in a few days.

The Iron Dome defense system is a main component of Israel's defense against the homemade and imported rockets fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, as well as the longer range rockets in the hands of Hezbollah guerrillas on Israel's border with Lebanon.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that Israel considers Hamas responsible for any rocket and mortar attacks originating from Gaza.

In a joint press conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Barak said that because Hamas is in power in Gaza, they are responsible for the actions of Islamic Jihad and other factions in the Strip, saying Hamas must control these groups.