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Israel to deploy two new rocket interceptors in 2013

07-30-2012 03:25 BJT

JERUSALEM, July 29 (Xinhua) -- The Israel Air Force (IAF) is expected to deploy two additional Iron Dome missile-defense batteries early next year, The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.

The new batteries have reportedly been outfitted with upgraded software and radars that will enable interception at extended ranges, and will be operated by reservists, according to the report.

The batteries will join the four currently at the disposal of the IAF, with additional systems scheduled for supply in the coming years.

Developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, Iron Dome is designed to shoot down rockets at ranges of 4 to 70 km and disregards projectiles that do not pose a risk of hitting populated areas.

Since becoming operational in March last year, the system has reportedly intercepted near 90 percent of the dozens of rockets fired by Gaza militants at southern Israel over the past year, prompting the defense establishment to call for the hasty procurement of additional batteries.

Three weeks ago, the IAF deployed a single battery near the Red Sea port of Eilat following intelligence that militant groups in the Egyptian Sinai were planning to launch rocket attacks from the region.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday signed a new law that significantly expands security cooperation with Israel, which includes a 70-million-U.S. dollar aid package for the Iron Dome project.

"This system is critical for maintaining the security of families in Israel. The project has been tested and succeeded in preventing rocket attacks," Obama said in a brief ceremony at the Oval Office attended by Jewish members of Congress.

"I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across the whole spectrum of security issues -- intelligence, military, technology... this legislation underscores our unshakeable commitment to Israel's security," he said.

The new funds come in addition to 680 million U.S. dollars approved by Congress in May and 205 million U.S. dollars forwarded in 2011 for the procurement of Iron Dome, which Israel slates to defend strategic military and civilian sites in the event of a regional war.

The new legislation, signed on the eve of Republican presidential candidate's Mitt Romney's visit to Israel, includes a host of other benefits aimed at bolstering the Jewish state's military prowess.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak welcomed the law, saying that it was further proof of the Obama administration's support for Israel.

"This new law... is yet another expression of consistent support by the Obama administration, and indeed by the U.S. Congress, for the security of the State of Israel. We acknowledge and appreciate them for this support," Barak said in a statement issued Saturday.

However, some U.S. officials have noted with cynicism that the new law came in the midst of aggressive presidential campaigns, with both Obama and Republican hopeful Romney battling for American Jewish voters.

In a briefing to reporters following the ceremony at the White House on Friday, Senator Barbara Boxer denied that there was any political calculation in the timing of the law's signing or that it was linked to Romney's trip to Israel, noting that Congress dictates the pace for a bill's approval.


Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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