NIS 811m. okayed for rocket defense

Barak: Funds to pave way for Iron Dome intercepting system to be operational within 2.5 years.

kassam damage 224 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
kassam damage 224 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Defense Minister Ehud Barak had a mixed message for Sderot residents on Sunday: The Iron Dome defense system will protect Israel from short-range missiles like the Kassam rockets, but it will take some 30 months for it to be fully operational. The security cabinet on Sunday authorized NIS 811 million for the system, which was selected in February by then-defense minister Amir Peretz as Israel's anti-Katyusha and anti-Kassam rocket defense system. The system is designed to intercept Kassam and Katyusha rockets with a small kinetic rocket interceptor. The Jerusalem Post reported last week that the approximately NIS 160m., which was initially given to Rafael (Armaments Development Authority) for the system's development, had run out, and an additional NIS 320m. was needed by the end of the month for development to continue. That system will become the base layer of a four-tier overlapping system. The second tier is comprised of Patriot missile batteries, which are already in place. The third tier is the vaunted Arrow system. The fourth tier, the Arrow 2, is currently under development. The goal of the developers is to design a system that could target cruise missiles even farther out than the Arrow system does now. Together these would provide Israel with a shield that Barak has said would protect it from about 90 percent of short- to long-range rockets. None of the systems will be able to stop mortar shells, as they are too small and their flight time too short to be intercepted. Even as the security cabinet was talking about how to protect the communities and strategic installations near the Gaza Strip, five Kassams were fired into Israel on Sunday. One of them struck the Carlsberg Beer plant in Ashkelon's industrial zone. The rocket hit an empty warehouse and no one was wounded. Two other rockets landed in open fields in the western Negev. One landed near a building in Sderot and failed to explode, and another landed near a kibbutz. The security cabinet, which met only to authorize funding for the Iron Dome project, met directly after the weekly cabinet meeting, during which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made clear that Israel had no interest in entering into any type of truce talks with Hamas. "Counterterrorist operations will continue as they have for months," Olmert said. "There is no other way to describe what is happening in the Gaza Strip except as a true war between the IDF and terrorist elements. This war will continue even as we take strict care, as we have up to now, to avoid a humanitarian crisis that could harm civilians who are not involved in terrorism." Olmert said Israel had "no interest" in negotiating with any elements that do not accept the Quartet's three principles: recognition of Israel, forswearing terrorism and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. "Whoever accepts the Quartet principles will be - in principle - a partner for negotiations," he said. "Whoever is unwilling to do so, to our regret, cannot be a partner for dialogue. This policy will not change." Barak said during the cabinet meeting that voices in Hamas calling for a hudna (cease-fire) were a result of Israel's military actions. He said there was no reason to begin a dialogue with Hamas, and that to ensure a continuation of the Annapolis process, Hamas needed to be knocked out of power, not saved. Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.