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The most common rocket in the terrorists’ arsenal is the Qassam – a small, inaccurate projectile whose major benefit appears to be its easy portability. There are several variants of the weapon and its range is limited to between 5 and 15 miles. Hamas also has a Russian-designed Grad rocket system that is truck mounted, which it purchased from Iran. Iron Dome can intercept all of these rockets.
A fourth Iron Dome battery is expected to be added later this year with 5 additional batteries to be manufactured by 2013. An Israeli defense official told CNN that it would take 13 batteries to cover the border with Gaza. The system was partially funded by the US government, which gave Israel $205 million to develop and test the system. Another $200 million has been authorized by Congress for additional batteries.
Israel needed Iron Dome to perform above expectations the past few days because the PRC and its Islamic Jihad allies felt it necessary to respond to the pinpoint strike that took out al-Qassi. That strike reveals a slight change in Israeli defense doctrine, according to YNet News. While Israel has always reserved the right to take preemptive action against the terrorists, this sort of targeted assassination is the result of the terrorist attack last August that killed eight Israelis. the Israelis apparently had an opportunity to kill al-Qassi at that time, but decided against it because they knew there would be a retaliatory rocket strike by the terrorists on civilians. Once Israel’s intelligence services got wind of the plot, it was decided to take out al-Qassi despite the almost certain retaliation with rockets on Israeli civilian centers.
Israel has always been sensitive about its open flank in the Sinai. While Hosni Mubarak was in power, the Egyptian army patrolled the border area, which is sparsely populated by Bedouins. But with the fall of Mubarak came opportunity for the terrorists who are now constantly seeking to infiltrate through the Sinai. The Egyptian army is turning a blind eye to these infiltrations, which are facilitated by local Bedouins, who know the border area well and, for a price, will aid the terrorists.
The response to the rocket barrage from the terrorists by the Israeli air force has received the usual blanket coverage in the media, highlighting every Palestinian civilian casualty while downplaying — or not even mentioning — the rain of rockets that is constantly hurled at the Jewish state. Not reported in the media were the 45 separate rocket attacks by the terrorists just since January 1 of this year. That number does not include the dozens of attacks carried out over the last three days.
The terrorists had been escalating their rocket attacks over the past few months. There were 14 attacks in January but 28 in February. And prior to the barrage that began on Friday, there were already five rockets that had been fired in three attacks since the first of the month. It wasn’t until the terrorists fired more than 40 rockets following the attack on al-Qassi that the IDF responded in kind. An initial air strike on Friday took out another 11 terrorists, some of whom were in the process of trying to launch rockets. Since then, the IDF has used drones to search out terrorists in the process of launching.
Both sides apparently don’t want an escalation to the kind of confrontation that occurred three years ago when Israeli planes pounded Hamas political and military targets in “Operation Cast Lead.” So the violence appears to have abated — for now.
But with the fully tested and functional Iron Dome rocket defense system, the threat by terrorists to harm civilians will fade. How this changes the strategic situation will play into the political and diplomatic designs of both sides in the coming years.
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