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Iron Dome: Israel’s best guard against enemy rockets, always on duty

The Indian Express logo The Indian Express 23-11-2022 Manraj Grewal Sharma
© Provided by The Indian Express

It’s Israel’s best protection from rockets, even a rain of them.

Be it rockets or mortars from Gaza in the South amidst the Israel-Palestine conflict, or the Hezbollah in Lebanon from the North, or even Syria, the Iron Dome has helped Israel spot and intercept every projectile fired at it since 2011.

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According to some Israeli military diplomats, the Iron Dome air defence system, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, has intercepted over 3,000 projectiles in the last 10 years.

“With both Hamas and Hezbollah developing long range capability, 3.5 million Israelis are vulnerable to such attacks,” says Lt Col Jonathan Conricus (retd) a military diplomat of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Conricus claims intelligence inputs have shown that Hamas has amassed 30,000 rockets, while the Hezbollah has more than a lakh.

According to Conricus, the most recent major attack Israel faced was in May 2021, when Hamas fired more than 4,360 rockets and mortars, killing 13 people in 11 days. Amid the threat, he says, "the radar is the hero".

A typical Iron Dome battery or unit comprises three missile launchers, each with 20 interceptors. “It (the Iron Dome) scans Gaza five times a second and the moment a projectile is fired, the radar picks it up a second and half later, figures out its trajectory, and the place it’s going to hit," Conricus says.

Based on the radar findings, the Iron Dome fires its own missiles that intercept the enemy rockets. Each interceptor hits the rocket mid-air and destroys it.

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With the intercepting missiles costing USD 50,000 each, it’s an expensive solution but has a success rate of around 96 per cent. "Our experts are working to scale down the cost, they have already halved it from USD 100,000," says Conricus.

At Netiv HaAsara, a moshav (a cooperative settlement ) 400 metres away from the edge of the Palestinian town of Beit Lahiya, the mobile dome, which has a range of up to 70 kms, is a godsend, although it has not made the ubiquitous bomb shelters obsolete. Every home has one bomb shelter, so do schools, offices and businesses. The ones most visible are the ones next to bus stops, colourfully painted.

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Hila Fenlon , a farmer and mother of two at NetivHaAsara, remembers the first time a rocket was fired at the community 21 years ago. “I was nine months pregnant when the first attack took place. There was tremendous media interest across the globe, we were on TV, but the rockets kept falling and soon the world lost interest.‘’

As per a 1951 civil defence law, all homes and ofices in Israel are required to have bomb shelters.

The IDF has calculated the reaction time of every community to reach bomb shelters based on its proximity to a hostile border. While residents of Netiv HaAsara get 15 seconds to run to a shelter, those in Jerusalem get 1 minute 42 seconds. But the trauma lasts much longer.

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Hila recounts how her young children would bathe with the door open and how even now, the first question three-year-olds ask when visiting another family is about the location of their bomb shelter.

At Afeka College of Engineering in Tel Aviv, Mol, a 23-year-old who was a medic during her conscription, says more a year after last year's May 21 attack by Hamas, even the loud sound of wind seems like a siren. “It doesn’t go away.’’

(The reporter was in Israel at the invitation of the Embassy of Israel in New Delhi)

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