Gaza Militants Fire Dozens of Rockets Into Southern Israel

Two Grad rockets fired at Ofakim, 24 mortar shells fired at Eshkol Regional Council; Iron Dome intercepts rocket fired at Be'er Sheva; residents of southern Israel stay in protected areas overnight.

Dozens of rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel from Gaza on Saturday, and more than 80 rockets had been fired at Israel's southern towns since Friday night.

Two Grad rockets were fired at the southern Israeli city of Ofakim on Saturday, shortly after 24 mortar shells were fired at the Eshkol Regional Council.

IDF forces carried out several strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza, killing at least four Hamas operatives overnight Friday.

Hamas threatened Saturday to escalate its attacks on Israel if the IDF did not halt its air strikes on Gaza.

Grad rocket strikes Be'er Sheva, March 23, 2011
Eliyahu Herskovitz

Iron Dome intercepted a rocket fired at Be'er Sheva early Saturday as 14 rockets fired by Gaza militants landed in Israeli territory overnight. One rocket reached deeper into Israel, landing north of Ashdod.

Residents of southern Israel spent the night in protected areas as cross-border fire with Gaza militants seriously escalated overnight.

A barrage of rockets and missiles was fired at southern Israel over the last two days, and the Iron Dome anti-missile system, deployed earlier in the week for the first time, succeeded in intercepting several rockets.

Earlier Friday, the Iron Dome system intercepted three Grad rockets fired toward Ashkelon. 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.