News / Middle East

Israel Relying on Iron Dome for Defense as it Presses Gaza Offensive

FILE - An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod.
FILE - An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod.
VOA News

As its warplanes continue a campaign of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, Israel is relying on its Iron Dome missile defense system to protect its people from rockets fired by Hamas militants.

Since beginning an operation last week to try to halt the rocket attacks, the Israeli military says the Iron Dome has shot down about 200 of the more than 1,000 rockets fired from Gaza.

The system is designed to intercept rockets that could hit populated areas, while ignoring those bound for places like empty fields. 

It uses radar to detect that a rocket has been fired, software to determine its likely destination and missiles that cost tens of thousands of dollars apiece to fly into the path of the rocket and destroy it.

Iron Dome, Israel missile defense systemIron Dome, Israel missile defense system
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Iron Dome, Israel missile defense system
Iron Dome, Israel missile defense system

The system was developed by the Israeli state-run defense company Rafael along with help from two other firms. The United States has given Israel hundreds of millions of dollars for the Iron Dome since it was first deployed in 2011.

Its first major test came in late 2012 during a similar flare-up of rocket attacks and Israeli airstrikes. Israeli and U.S. officials said the Iron Dome intercepted about 85 percent of its targets, a number that has risen to about 90 percent in the latest conflict.

The system has allowed the Israeli military to alter its strategy in responding to rocket fire. 

During a three-week war that ended in early 2009, Israel sent ground troops into Gaza in addition to carrying out airstrikes in a conflict that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

In the past week, militant rockets have killed zero Israelis. In Gaza, more than 185 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli airstrikes.

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