TEL AVIV ø Israel has installed a system meant to detect and
alert authorities of a Palestinian missile attack.
Officials said the system has been installed in the southwestern city of
Sderot, the target of Hamas gunners. About 500 Kassam-class short-range
missiles have fallen in or near Sderot over the past three years.
The missile alert system has been commissioned by the military's Ground
Forces Command and developed and produced by the state-owned Rafael, Israel
Armament Development Authority. Officials said the system, provided to the
military command last week, could detect a Kassam launch from the Gaza Strip
and relay the time and place to the military and civilian authorities within
"It can identify in a very short time where it [the missile] was
launched and assess where it will fall and operate a warning system while
the rocket is in the air, which is for about 20 seconds, depending on the
range," Rafael chief executive officer Giora Shalgi said.
Called Ma'amin, or "Believer," the system would then relay an
announcement to Sderot residents via the city's public address system. This
would give residents about 15 seconds to find shelter before the missile
lands in the city.
The average flight of the Kassam is about 20 seconds. More than 100
Kassam missiles, including 13 enhanced Nasser-3 missiles, landed around
Sderot in 2004.
Officials acknowledged that the Ma'amin contains glitches. On Monday,
the system did not alert Sderot residents of a Kassam missile attack from
the neighboring Gaza Strip. A Kassam missile landed in a residential area of
Sderot and nobody was seriously injured. The military said it had launched
an investigation of the Ma'amin.
The failure of the system came one week after it was tested by the
Ground Forces Command and deemed a success. The Ma'amin has been deemed as
capable of detecting the position of a Kassam launch through the use of
electro-optic sensors and software. The system, based on a Rafael platform
to locate sniper fire, contains a thermal camera directed toward the
northern Gaza town of Bet Hanoun, the launching pad of most Kassam strikes.
Rafael was said to have modified an existing anti-sniper system into a
prototype for a missile alert platform within six weeks. Officials said the
project came in wake of an emergency request fom the Defense Ministry in
Officials said the Rafael system could be expanded. to cover other areas
of Israel. Shalgi said the enhancement would cost up to $10 million.
Israeli authorities expect missile attacks to intensify over the next
few months as the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon prepares to
withdraw from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. On Sunday, a leading
Hamas operative, Khaled Abu Salmiya, linked to Kassam missile production and
strikes against Sderot, was killed in an Israeli air attack in the Gaza
Officials said Abu Salmiya was responsible for the enhancement of the
Kassam missile over the last three months.