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Monday, August 22, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israel's Iron Dome intercepts only 17
of 150 Hamas missiles and rockets

TEL AVIV — Israel's new rocket defense system has failed to stop Palestinian salvos from the Gaza Strip.


The Iron Dome, deployed in southern Israel in early 2011, was said to have intercepted no more than 17 of nearly 150 missiles and rockets fired from the Gaza Strip since Aug. 18. Military sources acknowledged that Iron Dome was unable to counter Palestinian salvos and an individual battery could not protect a major city.

"We don't have enough batteries, and Hamas and its militia allies are clearly exploiting this," a military source said.

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The Israel Air Force has been operating only two Iron Dome batteries, produced by the state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. On Aug. 21, the Israeli military reported nine interceptions by Iron Dome of missiles and rockets fired toward Ashkelon and Beersheba.

The sources said operators have been trained to fire two interceptors, priced at $50,000, toward an incoming missile or rocket. Iron Dome was said to be designed to intercept projectiles with ranges from four to 70 kilometers and protect an area of up to 150 square kilometers.

But the Rafael system was said to have failed to protect Beersheba, deemed the capital of southern Israel. The sources said Iron Dome could not handle Hamas salvos of dozens of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, many of which were believed to have been smuggled from Libya in mid-2011.

On late Aug. 20, Hamas fired a salvo of at least seven Grad rockets toward Beersheba. Military sources said Iron Dome intercepted five rockets, but another Grad penetrated the defense umbrella and exploded in a residential neighborhood. An Israeli was reported killed.

"We said in advance that this wasn't a hermetic system," Israel Air Defense commander Brig. Gen. Doron Gavish said.

Israel's parliament has determined that the military requires at least 15 Iron Dome batteries to protect the country. The third battery was expected to be acquired by the Israel Air Force in October.

Another three batteries were scheduled for deployment in 2012. Many of the Iron Dome batteries were expected to be financed by $205 million in U.S. military aid approved in mid-2011.

The sources said Hamas has determined some of the gaps in Iron Dome. For example, they said, Hamas and its militia allies have bypassed the Iron Dome battery deployed to defend Ashkelon by firing extended-range BM-21 Grad rockets beyond the city and toward Ashdod, about 17 kilometers to the north. Ashdod has not been protected by Iron Dome.

Rafael has been summoned by the Defense Ministry and military to propose ways for Iron Dome to stop Hamas salvos. Officials said company engineers were expected to work closely with air force crews assigned to operate the system.

"There are of course lessons and things that need to be fixed, but this is an unbelievable achievement for us and the soldiers who operate it," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Aug. 21.

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