The radical Islamic Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip has fired barrages of rockets at populated areas in Israel. But Israel's advanced 'Iron Dome' missile defense system has intercepted most of them.
"Four minutes of Iron Dome" was the name of the report aired on Monday evening by the Israeli TV's Channel Two without any commentary. The report showed residents of the Israeli port city of Ashdod sitting between sand dunes and rocky paths, looking up at the sky and pointing their smartphones in the same direction to take pictures.
"This is unique, really," said a man with sunglasses, screaming into the TV camera. "I'm going to get my kids so they can see how secure the system is."
Emergency sirens blared out just minutes earlier. A rocket from Gaza was aimed at Ashdod. But before it couldn't do any damage, Israel's "Iron Dome" missile defense system destroyed the projectile. No one even heard the explosion.
Plenty of praise
Israelis' have become euphoric about the Iron Dome, ever since the violence erupted between the radical Islamic Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Israel. Many of them have been praising the effectiveness of the interceptor missiles on websites.
Thanks to the state-of-the-art defense system, the number of deaths and injuries from the attacks so far has remained low. The system is designed to detect and intercept rockets aimed at populated areas. Five units are currently engaged, four of them in the south and the other since Saturday in a suburb of Tel Aviv, where it has become an attraction of sorts.
Three Israeli companies have developed the Iron Dome. Rafael Defense Systems accounts for the lion's share of the development work, which began officially in 2007. The missile defense system was first put to the test in 2011. Three more units were used earlier this year when Hamas launched missiles in the south.
Each unit consists of three launching pads, radar and control system software. If a missile is fired, the radar detects the type of projectile and whether it is aimed at a populated area, and then forwards the information to the launcher, which releases an interceptor missile. Enemy missiles are destroyed in the air, as video footage from the Israeli army has repeatedly shown.
Generous US support
The Iron Dome is a mobile system that can be assembled, disassembled or deployed within a short time - a definite strategic and tactical advantage. Its success rate is about 90 percent, according to an Israeli Ministry of Defense spokesman. It can be used in rain or fog, firing interceptor missiles with a range of up to 70 kilometers.
Amir Peretz, the Israeli defense minister from May 2006 to June 2007 has been instrumental in construction of Iron Dome. The 60-year-old, now an MP in the Labor Party, lives in Sderot, a town near the Gaza Strip and a frequent target of rockets. He overcame the initial resistance to developing Iron Dome by military experts who pointed to the high development costs.
Israel now has five Iron Dome units, thanks in large part to the United States, which has provided generous support for the project.
Each unit costs approximately 39 million euros, in addition to the costs for each missile fired, according to Israeli media. The country has invested about 780 million euros in the system to date.
The Israeli army is also convinced that the system will be a success in the long term.. At least 13 missile units would be needed to protect the entire country. Depending on the financial situation, these could be built within the next three years, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said earlier in the week.