The Israel Air Force’s Iron Dome rocket-defense system intercepted 27 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip over the weekend, raising the interception rate from 75 percent last year to over 90%.Israel currently has three Iron Dome batteries in operation – in Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheba – and plans to deploy the fourth in the coming months. Its plan is to deploy a total of nine batteries by mid-2013.The Iron Dome is designed to defend against rockets at a range of 4-70 kilometers. Each battery consists of a multi-mission radar manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries and three launchers, each equipped with 20 interceptors called Tamirs.The radar enables Iron Dome operators to predict the impact site of the enemy rocket and decide not to intercept it if it is slated to hit an open area. Each interceptor costs around $50,000 and usually two are fired at rockets slated for interception.The results, IDF officers said, were an improvement since 2011, during which the Iron Dome intercepted a total of 33 rockets for a success rate of just 75%. Some of the misses were the results of technical malfunctions that have since been repaired.The IAF’s Air Defense Division deployed the system in southern Israel in March 2011 and it has since been activated during the four significant rounds of violence with Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip – last April, August and October in addition to over the past weekend.The IDF Home Front Command has dispatched representatives to each local council that has been affected by rocket fire over the weekend to coordinate preparations and responses.“We are satisfied with the way the public is listening to safety instructions, and with our very good cooperation with local authorities,” said Col. Chilik Sofer (res.) of the Home Front Command, who until recently was the head of the Population – Civil Defense branch. Rocket warning sirens were functioning well, he added.At the same time, Sofer said, residents of central Israel should ensure that the safe zones are prepared.“We issue that instruction all-year round. We don’t know what will happen in a week or two weeks. Hence, it is best to be prepared. If nothing happens, no harm was done by being prepared,” Sofer said.“We view it in the same way as making preparations for an earthquake.”According to the instructions, gatherings of 500 or more people have been banned within 40 kilometers of the Gaza Strip. Residents of Sderot and other Gaza-border communities should remain within 15- second running distances of safe areas. Ashkelon residents should keep within a 30-second distance, and residents of Ashdod should be within 45 seconds of a safe area.Due to ongoing escalation, southern police chief Cmdr. Yossi Prienti held a meeting with emergency-responders, and decided to keep the district on high alert. Police officers from other districts have been mobilized to reinforce the South.Prienti said emergency services did not know how long the current escalation would last.The battery in Ashdod intercepted 11 rockets out of 13 fired into the city; the battery in Ashkelon intercepted one rocket and purposely did not intercept four others since they were heading to open fields; and the battery in Beersheba intercepted 15 and allowed two others to strike open fields.