Jerusalem: Israel is for the first time deploying its newly developed "Iron Dome" rocket defence system to protect southern Israeli communities from Palestinian attacks from Gaza.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak says he gave the order on Friday after a week in which Gaza militants fired dozens of mortar shells and rockets at Israel, which retaliated with airstrikes.
Barak says he approved the deployment of the system as an "an operational experiment”.
The Israeli military says it will be operational in a few days.
The system is a main component of Israel`s defence against the homemade and imported rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, as well as the longer range rockets in the hands of Hezbollah guerrillas on Israel`s border with Lebanon.