The Iron Dome system – part of a multilayered missile defense program that began about 20 years ago – enables Israel to target such militants in Gaza without risking nearly as many civilian casualties to its own people. So far, five batteries have been deployed – the last one only yesterday, two months ahead of schedule and just in time to intercept at least two rockets targeting Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city.
Each battery includes a radar detection system, a command and control center, and mobile launchers that can be repositioned as necessary. When a rocket is fired from Gaza, the batteries quickly calculate whether it is headed for a populated area or sensitive target; if so, one of the interceptors is quickly dispatched, at a reported cost of $50,000. If the rocket is headed for an open area, however, no action is taken.
Of the more than 750 rockets fired from Gaza since last week, 245 had been intercepted as of last night. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has not published the number of attempted intercepts, so it is impossible to calculate the exact success rate. But Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren as well as Israel’s former director of missile defense, Arieh Herzog, have said that the success rate of attempted intercepts is about 90 percent. That is a significant improvement over the 80 percent rate achieved when the system was first deployed in March 2011.
The deployment of Iron Dome, together with the IDF’s airstrikes on Gaza, have brought a mixture of relief and hope to Israelis, says Yehudit Bar Hay, a trauma expert at the Israel Center for Victims of Terror & War, known as NATAL.
There is a “feeling that the government is at least looking at us and doing something,” says Ms. Bar Hay, who lives less than a mile from the Gazan border. “Not that we like war, but this is some kind of response that we didn’t get for these 12 years.”