Israel’s much-vaunted Iron Dome missile defence system is intercepting a barrage of rockets fired by Hamas and other Palestinian militants from Gaza as bloody clashes escalate.
According to the Jewish state’s army, 200 of the more than 480 rockets which have been fired since Monday have been shot out of the sky by the system.
They claim that around 150 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory exploded inside the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli-designed Iron Dome system is meant to protect populated areas and critical assets by neutralising short-range aerial threats.
The first battery was deployed in March 2011 near the southern city of Beersheva — 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Gaza Strip, and a favourite Hamas target — to combat Soviet-designed Grad rockets fired from the Palestinian territory. Israel now has 10 such batteries.
2,400 projectiles intercepted
The head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, Moshe Patel, said that up to January Iron Dome had intercepted over 2,400 projectiles during the past decade.
With each launch costing reportedly almost $50,000, he told the Times of Israel that it had “saved hundreds of lives".
Each battery has a radar detection and tracking system, a firing control system and three launchers for 20 interceptor missiles. Each has a range of between four and 70 kilometres (2.5 and 44 miles).
Iron Dome was developed by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, a state-owned arms company based in the northern city of Haifa. But it is also partly funded by the United States, which committed $5 billion to its development costs in 2016.
It is one of the strategic pillars of the US-Israeli alliance which has been followed by successive Democratic and Republican administrations.
In August 2019 the US Army signed a contract to purchase two Iron Dome batteries to enhance its own short-range missile defence capabilities.
Israel has other missile defence systems such as the Arrow, to counter ballistic missiles, and David’s Sling, for medium-range rocket or missile attacks.
Military experts say 13 Iron Dome batteries are needed to be able to defend the whole of Israeli territory, with its tense border with Syria also particularly at risk of attack.