The reason most of the casualties in the current Israeli-Palestinian flare-up have been on the Palestinian side of Gaza is not necessarily because of Israel’s significantly larger military capabilities.
Unlike previous skirmishes between the long-warring sides, Israel has knocked 80 to 90 percent of the rockets launched at it out of the sky using its Iron Dome missile defense system, tipping the balance of military might even farther away from Palestinians, reported the New York Times
Senior Hamas officials reported that they and Israel agreed Tuesday to an Eqyptian-backed ceasefire, however they continued to launch missile attacks at each other hours before the fighting is supposed to stop.
The system, according to the Israeli officials, has prevented more than 300 rockets from hitting densely populated areas and allowed military leaders to more carefully consider their moves before acting.
Defense minister Ehud Barak called it’s “almost perfect” performance “probably the most technologically impressive achievement in recent years in Israel.”
Iron Dome is made up of 15 mobile missile launchers that are linked by a central radar system, which tracks missiles launched at targets in Israel and projects whether they will hit a populated area or not. If the missile is headed toward people, a counter-missile is launched, and if not it is allowed to hit whatever person-less area it was aimed at.
“We’ve got about a 90% success rate,” an unnamed senior Israeli official told Time Magazine. “This is unprecedented in history . . . We keep tweaking it. In one of the recent exchanges, one of the batteries was 100% [successful]. That means, to me, that Iron Dome is capable of 100% [across the board] — I don’t think it was entirely a fluke.”
Since Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the Palestinian territories began last week, more than 1,000 missiles have been launched into southern Israel. Most of the ones deemed by Iron Dome’s computer system to be a threat to human life have been shot out of the sky.
This has been done using five mobile launchers, which will number 15 when the system is fully deployed. Israeli officials have stationed most of the ones already in service in the south of the country because Hamas regularly launches missiles and rockets into the area.
Iron Dome was developed by Israeli companies at what will be a cost of about $1 billion when it is fully installed. At least $300 million of that funding has come from the United States, which has worked with Israel on some parts of it.
The U.S. is expected to contribute another $700 million to the full development and deployment of the system, including a possible production role for American companies. Those funds are in addition to the $30 billion already pledged to Israel over the next decade, according to NBC.
“We can be proud of this system’s record of saving lives and preventing wider conflict in that region,” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said after an August trip to Israel that included a tour of one of the Iron Dome installations.
Each of the individual interceptor missiles costs roughly $100,000 — part of the reason the system only shoots down projectiles expected to hit population centers — but that cost is considered small when factoring in the loss of life and property if one should hit places that people live and work.
Thus far, Israel has had three civilian casualties and about 70 wounded. Far less than would be expected for 1,000 missiles launched their way, and also far less than Palestinians have lost from the Israeli response.
“Think if these rockets actually hit a neighborhood, in terms of the human costs, the wounded, the destruction of infrastructure would be much greater. So $100,000 is not that much to pay for a house that’s full of kids,” the senior Israeli official said.
“We have had casualties... But the casualties we have had – the three killed – was not because of Iron Dome, but because the people didn’t listen to the siren. They thought they were out of range.”
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