A US-backed rocket shield is on track to protect Israeli towns against rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, a senior State Department official said Friday.

The system, dubbed the "Iron Dome," is being promoted by the Obama administration as the latest example of expanded military cooperation between the United States and Israel. President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $205 million to accelerate development of the system, about half its total cost.

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The election-year message of increased US aid to Israel seems aimed at assuaging the misgivings of many Jewish voters that Obama remains committed to Israel's security, despite diplomatic tensions early this year.

"As surely as the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable, our commitment to Israel's qualitative military edge has never been greater," said Andrew Shapiro, an assistant secretary of State for political and military affairs.

Israel inched a step closer recently to deploying a missile defense system along the border with the Gaza Strip after the Iron Dome system successfully intercepted a number of missile barrages in tests earlier this week.

The tests were overseen by the Defense Ministry, the Israel Air Force and the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. which developed the Iron Dome, slated to be declared operational in the near future.

The Iron Dome is supposed to be capable of intercepting all of the short-range rockets in fired by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and by Hizbullah in southern Lebanon. The Iron Dome uses an advanced radar – made by Elta – that locates and tracks the rocket, which is then intercepted by a kinetic missile interceptor.

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