PM says Iron Dome won't provide complete protection

Counter-rocket defense system to be deployed near Beersheba; IAF prepared for possibility it won't work.

By
March 27, 2011 12:27
3 minute read.
THE IRON DOME system is designed to intercept shortrange rockets fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip

Iron Dome 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tried to lower expectations about the Iron Dome system Sunday, telling the cabinet that the system could not protect every house, school and army base in the country.

"Israel has been under the threat of missile attack for 20 years, since the first Gulf War.  I don't want to create the illusion that Iron Dome, which we are setting up for the first time today, will prove a full or comprehensive answer," he said.

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Netanyahu said that the Iron Dome system was still in its experimental stages. The true answer to the missile attacks he said was a combination of deterrence, preventive measures and the resilience of the government and the people.

In any event, Netanyahu said, Israel holds Hamas as responsible for anything that is fired from the Gaza Strip.

Brig-Gen Doron Gavish , commander of the IAF Air Defense Division echoed the prime ministers sentiments, saying "the iron dome can provide good but not hermetic protection," as soldiers began deploying the first battery of the system outside of Beersheba.

"The protection provided to the city is good, but this is still operational test stage and it is not hermetic, " Gavish told reporters at the site of the battery near Beersheba.

Gavish said that the deployment of the Iron Dome was part of the IDF's wider strategy of using offensive as well as passive defensive means to combat Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza.

He said that despite the Iron Dome deployment, the public must continue to listen to the Home Front Command's instructions regarding what to do in the event of a missile attack.

Gavish said that the battery would be mobile, moving according to operational requirements and the decision to launch interceptors or not would be taken by commanders in real time at the battery.

"Our job is to give decision makers flexibility and therefore we are deploying in different places so at the end of the process they will be able to decide where is best to deploy," Gavish said.

There had been some hesitancy in the defense establishment about the deployment of the Iron Dome outside of Israeli cities. Some officials believed the system should be deployed outside of bases to provide the IAF with protection in the event of a larger conflict and allow for continued operations in the event of an attack.

The IAF Air Defense Division will complete the deployment of the first battery in the beginning of the week and the second battery towards the end of the week. The decision to deploy the system was made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who came under pressure from residents of the South who are under missile fire.

The first battery will be deployed near Beersheba and the second battery near Ashkelon. IDF sources said, however, that the batteries were mobile and could be moved to other parts of the South per operational requirements.

Iron Dome is designed to defend against rockets at a range of 4-70 km. Each battery consists of a multi-mission radar manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries and three launchers, each equipped with 20 interceptors named Tamir.

The system has undergone a series of tests in recent weeks.

The IDF stressed that the deployment was part of what it called an “operational test” and that the Air Defense Division was prepared for the possibility that the Iron Dome will not work as expected.

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