Sunday, July 06, 2008

Israel's Iron Dome passes test

July 06 2008

Jerusalem - IOL- Israel has successfully tested a new defence system designed to intercept rockets fired from southern Lebanon and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, public radio reported on Sunday.

The "Iron Dome" system is expected to be fully operational within a year and will be able to intercept the military-grade Katyusha rockets used by Lebanon's Hezbollah militia and the cruder Qassam rockets favoured by Hamas.

Citing Israeli security officials, public radio said the system would also be effective against mortar fire which has a much smaller window of warning.In January Prime Minister Ehud Olmert viewed a prototype of the $200-million (about R1,6-billion) system, which is being developed under contract by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, an Israeli arms manufacturer.

Iron Dome is part of a multi-layered defence system aimed at protecting Israel from both short-range missiles fired by militants in Gaza or Lebanon and longer-range missiles in the arsenals of regional foes Iran and Syria. Since the outbreak of the latest Palestinian uprising in 2000 Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip have come under frequent rocket and mortar attack, leaving them in a constant state of fear.

The attacks have slowed since a truce between Israel and Hamas came into force on June 19, but the fragile Egyptian-brokered agreement has been tested by occasional rockets and mortar rounds fired by smaller armed groups.Israel also came under sustained attack during its 2006 war with Hezbollah, when more than 4 000 Katyusha rockets were launched at northern Israel in 34 days, sending hundreds of thousands of residents fleeing south.

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