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Monday July 19, 2010 8:49 PM (EST+7)
New Israeli rocket shield passes final test

Read more: Iron Dome, missle defense, missle defence, Israeli military, US military, Qassam rockets

JERUSALEM, July 19 (Reuters) - An Israeli system that shoots down rockets passed final tests on Monday and will be deployed near Israel's borders by November, the Defence Ministry said.

US President Barack Obama in May asked Congress for $205 million to support the development of Iron Dome, which intercepts short-range rockets like those used by Palestinian militants in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The system successfully shot down multiple rockets simultaneously for the first time in testing this week, Israel's Defence Ministry said.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak has argued Iron Dome could be a necessary safeguard to reassure Israelis in the event of a withdrawal from the occupied-West Bank that comes in the framework of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Senior US State Department official Andrew Shapiro said last week that U.S. support for Iron Dome will, provide Israel with the capabilities and the confidence that it needs to take the tough decisions ahead for a comprehensive peace.

Produced by state-owned Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd., Iron Dome uses small radar-guided missiles to blow up Katyusha-style rockets with ranges of between 5 km (3 miles) and 70 km (45 miles), as well as mortar bombs, mid-air.

Its development was spurred by the 2006 conflict in Lebanon with Hezbollah and the Gaza Strip war against Hamas 18 months ago, when those Israeli towns within range were all-but defenceless against the rockets.

The two units the Defence Ministry said will begin operating by November are truck-towed and easily deployed to any of Israel's borders.

Israel launched a devastating three-week offensive into the Gaza Strip in late 2008 to try to curb the cross-border salvoes.

Israel envisages Iron Dome becoming the lowest level of a multi-tier aerial shield capped by Arrow, a partly US-funded system which shoots down ballistic missiles above the atmosphere.

Each Iron Dome interception is estimated to cost $10,000 to $50,000. Pitted against estimated costs of cruder Palestinian rockets, as low as $500, that could bleed the defence budget, some analysts have argued.

But Barak has brushed off such criticism, pointing out that were Israel to go to war in retaliation for serious casualties in a rocket strike, the campaign would cost $1.5 billion a day.

The Defence Ministry has said the system may also be manufactured for export in the future.






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