JERUSALEM, Jan 6 (Reuters) - An Israeli interceptor system developed to shoot down the short-range rockets and mortar bombs used by Palestinian guerrillas will be deployed outside the Gaza Strip by June, a defense official said on Wednesday.
If successful against Hamas-ruled Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005, Iron Dome could eventually also be posted outside the West Bank and defuse some Israelis' concerns about the prospect of ceding that territory to the Palestinians.
Designed 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 (2 miles) and 70 km (45 miles), as well as mortar bombs.
An Israeli defence official said Iron Dome had successfully intercepted multiple salvoes in field trials and that military air-defence units were already training on it.
Our plan is to be operational by the mid-point of 2010, the official said. Israel's Channel 10 television said the first Gaza deployment would be in May.
The Iron Dome project was spurred by Israel's 2006 war with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, during which 4,000 rockets rained down on its northern border communities.
A surge in such attacks from Gaza a year ago prompted an Israeli offensive which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, many of them civilians, and drew international censure.
Israel envisages Iron Dome becoming the lowest level of a multi-tier aerial shield capped by Arrow, a partly U.S.-funded system which shoots down ballistic missiles above the atmosphere. (Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jon Boyle)