15 JULY 2009
JERUSALEM – Israel has successfully tested a system that intercepts and destroys rockets such as those fired by militants from the Gaza Strip or from south Lebanon, the defence ministry said on Wednesday.
The "Iron Dome" system developed by public armaments firm Rafael was tested successfully in recent days and destroyed an unspecified number of incoming rockets, the ministry said in a statement.
More tests are expected in the next few months before the defence system is deployed in southern Israel to counteract rockets fired by Palestinian militants based in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
The military commentator of private television Channel 10 said meanwhile the defence ministry wants to deploy the system near the southern Israeli border town of Sderot by the beginning of 2010.
Iron Dome is expected to be able to intercept rockets with a range from four kilometres to 70 kilometres (2.5 to 44 miles).
"This system is a new defence element against rockets and will allow the Israeli army to better carry out its supreme duty which is to protect, in the best way, our civilian population," Defence Minister Ehud Barak said.
The Israeli military says militants have fired more than 200 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel since the January 18 end of the Jewish state's 22-day military offensive against Gaza.
Israeli areas near the Palestinian enclave have been the target of homemade Qassam rockets fired by Palestinian militants since the start of the intifada in September 2000.
The militant Shiite group Hezbollah fired more than 4,000 Katyusha rockets at Israel during the 2006 summer war between the two sides, forcing one million residents to flee homes in north Israel or hide in shelters.