Hours after terrorists in Gaza fired three mortar shells into the western Negev on Sunday night, the High Court of Justice on Monday rejected a petition asking that the government be ordered to deploy the Iron Dome rocket defense system in Gaza border communities.

The ruling to reject the petition, which had been brought by the Eshkol Regional Council, follows an upsurge in Palestinian rocket fire against the South in recent days.

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Some 340 rockets and mortar shells from Gaza have hit dozens of southern communities this year, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said on Monday.

In rejecting the petition, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Justice Salim Joubran and Justice Uzi Fogelman ruled that in balancing all relevant considerations including budgets, changing security realities and operational matters, the government’s decision not to deploy the Iron Dome in the area was reasonable.

The panel of justices also said that the court had no reason to intervene in operational decisions regarding where to deploy the Iron Dome system.

“We believe the [government] will make the necessary decisions in accordance with the requirements of the time and place,” the justices said.

Haim Yalin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, slammed the court’s decision and said that the government must take immediate responsibility to defend residents affected by Gaza rocket fire.

“The High Court ruling said it was up to the government to defend us, so we are asking them – go ahead, protect us, defend us,” Yalin told The Jerusalem Post. “The government needs to take responsibility.

It’s about social justice.”

In its High Court petition, the Eshkol Regional Council argued that the government should be ordered to deploy the Iron Dome to protect communities in the so-called “Gaza envelope,” specifically those located between 4.5 and seven kilometers from the Strip, from terrorist rocket fire.

Homes in communities located within 4.5 kilometers of Gaza have been equipped with government-funded rocket-roof protection.

However, structures located between 4.5 and seven kilometers from the Gaza security fence lack rocket protection.

Iron Dome, a mobile air defense system, was developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to intercept rockets and artillery shells with a range from 4.5 to 70 kilometers. It was deployed this week outside Ashkelon in response to rocket fire from Gaza.

Communities in the Eshkol Regional Council say the system should protect them too.

In the petition, the council said the government has put the lives of residents living in these communities at risk by failing to deploy Iron Dome or to provide any other rocket protection.

The distinction between homes located less than 4.5 kilometers from Gaza – which received government funding for rocket protection – and homes located over 4.5 kilometers from the security fence is no longer relevant, argues the Eshkol Regional Council, because the Palestinian rockets have a range well in excess of 4.5 kilometers.

The petition also claimed that the government’s failure to protect communities by deploying the Iron Dome violates the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty.

In response, the state argued that the High Court should not intervene in the “military decision” regarding how and where to deploy the anti-rocket system.

The state noted that Iron Dome is portable, and is deployed in different areas depending on operational need.

If the court were to order the state to deploy Iron Dome in a specific area, budgetary limitations would result in other communities not receiving protection, particularly as the range of Palestinian rockets has grown in recent years and therefore it is not possible to deploy Iron Dome to protect every community, the state argued.

Attorney Eduardo Wasser, representing the Eshkol Regional Council, told the Post that the High Court’s ruling to reject the petition was “very disappointing.

“If we understand the ruling correctly, the court found that the [government’s] pledge [to protect communities near the Gaza Strip] was made under different conditions, and that the government can retract that pledge,” he said.

Wasser also noted that the justices ruled that it was the government’s responsibility to use other means, apart from the Iron Dome, to protect communities in the “Gaza envelope.”

Wasser added that he was uncertain that the government would do so.

“In other words, the court is telling us that we must rely on the government to take responsibility for defending us, but until an alternative means is found to protect us I’m not convinced that we can do so,” he said.

Yalin said that he was now calling on the government to find a way to protect communities between 4.5 and seven kilometers from the Strip.

“It is up to the government to either stop the rocket fire, or find a way to defend its citizens,” the council head said.

“The residents of the ‘Gaza envelope’ are suffering, we have suffered for years – and now we will do everything in our power to make the government take responsibility and defend us from rocket attacks.

Because who else apart from the government of the State of Israel can take responsibility and protect its citizens?”

Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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