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Israel deploys rocket interceptor near Eilat

07-12-2012 19:50 BJT

JERUSALEM, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli military has deployed the Iron Dome rocket-defense system to the Red Sea port city of Eilat.

A military spokeswoman told Xinhua on Thursday that a single battery was stationed near the city as part of a "routine operational deployment program," in which the batteries are periodically relocated to different sites throughout the country.

Palestinian militants intermittently fire rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel, but strikes against Eilat, a desert resort that attracts hoards of Israeli and European tourists during the summer, are rare.

In April, two rockets fired by militants operating in the neighboring Sinai Peninsula exploded in open areas in Eilat. There were no reports of injuries, but a few local residents were treated for shock.

The attack prompted the Israel Air Force (IAF), which operates Iron Dome, to begin preparing a site for positioning the system, in the event that militants increase their strikes.

"We are starting to think about how to defend Eilat if there is a requirement to do so," a senior officer told The Jerusalem Post at the time.

Several weeks ago, two 122 mm. Grad-type rockets fired from Sinai landed in Ovda, a region located several dozen km north of Eilat, and near Mitzphe Ramon, a town in the southern Negev desert.

No casualties or damage were reported in the attack, but defense officials noted with concern that this was the first time that these areas were targeted by rockets. Israeli intelligence agencies speculated that one of several groups was behind the attack - including Gaza militants, al-Qaida and Bedouin mercenaries.

Developed by the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, Iron Dome is designed to intercept rockets at a range of 4 to 70 km. The system's radar calculates the trajectory of hostile projectiles and instantaneously identifies those that do not pose a risk of hitting a populated area.

Since becoming operational in March 2011, the system has intercepted some 90 percent of the rockets fired from Gaza at southern Israeli cities.

The U.S. Congress has recently approved a 680-million-U.S. dollar aid package to Israel, to enable it to purchase more Iron Dome batteries. The special funding was the highest ever appropriated for Israel's missile defenses in a single year.

In addition to Iron Dome, the army is weighing plans to deploy radars along the Israel-Egypt border that would enable early detection of rocket attacks.

The radars are reportedly similar to those the IAF currently operates along the volatile borders with Gaza and Lebanon, which transmit data on incoming rockets to the army's Home Front Command.


Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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