A normal and strongly recommended civilian response to siren warnings of incoming rocket fire would be to take cover, but the exact opposite is happening in Israel, thanks to a U.S.-funded missile defense system called the “Iron Dome.”
Developed in 2007 as part of a $30 billion 10-year military-aid agreement signed by the Bush administration, the Iron Dome intercepts and destroys incoming missiles in-air. Josh Hartman, a spokesman for Israel’s Defense Ministry told National Public Radio that the system has had a 90 percent success rate, drawing “fans” to the streets to see it in action.
In the last five days, according to Hartman, the Iron Dome has shot down nearly 300 missiles launched by Hamas toward Israel. The system’s success rate may be the reason the media hasn’t reported much about the more than 750 missiles Hamas has fired from Gaza toward Israel.
“This is certainly a game changer,” Hartman told NPR. “Just imagine if those interceptions had landed on the civilian population of Israel. The strategic picture would look very, very different.”
One of the lead developers of the Iron Dome, whose name could not be used for security reasons, told NPR that “the cost per intercept is high.” Israeli media estimates it at $60,000 per interception, but that’s not the only issue.
“The problem with Iron Dome is that it’s become deified,” the developer told NPR. “People see Iron Dome as a savior. What we are worried about is that people are going to become so enamored with Iron Dome that they will do things that are wrong.”
Overall, since Wednesday, 96 Palestinians, including 50 civilians, have been killed in the conflict, with some 720 people wounded, according to Gaza heath official Ashraf al-Kidra. Among the wounded were 225 children, he said, a stark contrast to the Israeli side, which has reported only three civilian deaths from Palestinian rocket fire and dozens wounded.
A senior Egyptian official said that Hamas and Israel were each presenting Egypt with their conditions for a cease-fire.
“I hope that by the end of the day we will receive a final signal of what can be achieved,” said the official, who is familiar with the indirect negotiations. He said Israel and Hamas are both looking for guarantees to ensure a long-term stop to hostilities. The official said Egypt’s aim is to stop the fighting and “find a direct way to lift the siege of Gaza.”
Fifty-seven percent of Americans say Israeli attacks in Gaza are justified, a CNN/ORC poll reported Monday.