Second Qassam Rocket in 24 Hours Strikes Southern Israel

Attack follows calls to expedite deployment of delayed "Iron Dome" defense batteries.

A second rocket fired from the Gaza strip in 24 hours struck Israel late on Wednesday, falling on open ground and causing no damage or injury.

Launch of the Gaza-made Qassam rocket followed air strikes on Gaza on Tuesday night. Israel's air force struck smuggling tunnel beneath Gaza's southern border with Egypt in retaliation for another rocket attack earlier in the day.

The strikes also followed a series of what appeared to be attempted attacks on Israel, in which barrels packed with explosives rigged for remote detonation were washed ashore south of Tel Aviv.

Earlier today Haaretz reported that Israeli military commanders had for the time being decided against permanently deploying a new defense system against rocket fire, known as "Iron Dome".

The army now expects to begin operating the anti-rocket batteries in May. But the units will initially remain at one of the air forces southern bases and deployed in the field only event the event of a "serious escalation", the army said.

Earlier on Wdnesday former defense minister Amir Peretz urged Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday to deploy Iron Dome in the southern town of Sderot as soon as possible.

In the past three years, government ministers have repeatedly promised that the batteries would be deployed in the field and would effectively defend communities near the Gaza Strip.

Sderot, the target of multiple rocket attacks over the past eight years, is expected to be the first town to benefit from the new system.

Much of the testing for Iron Dome was completed over the past month. In one especially impressive trial in the Negev, the system downed several barrages of incoming rockets.

However, Haaretz has learned that acquiring and deploying the system will apparently be much slower than planned and the military may not meet its May deployment deadline.

A senior source in the General Staff explained that two tests of the system still need to be carried out. "We are still not at the decision stage on the way the system will be used," the source said. "We need to evaluate fully the missile's capabilities and only then determine the extent of the acquisition."

The source said the media had failed to understand the real purpose of the system; reporters have described Iron Dome as a routine means for intercepting Qassam rockets and Grad-type Katyushas.

"This is a system that is expected to counter much bigger rockets that may be in the Gaza Strip, like the Fajr-5," he said. The Iranian-made Fajr-5 is in Hezbollah's arsenal and has a range of 75 kilometers. It carries a warhead of between 100 and 150 kilograms.