A new analysis of the terrorist missile threat from Hamas-ruled Gaza contains good news and bad news for Israelis: The bad news is that when compared to several years ago, many more of them are within rocket range of Gaza. The good news is that the Israel Air Force operates a new missile defense system known as Iron Dome, which has achieved remarkable success in destroying rockets fired from Gaza in flight before they land in Israel.
The author of the analysis, noted missile-defense expert Uzi Rubin, wrote that a late 2008 Hamas rocket offensive that ended when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead affected approximately 200,000 Israeli civilians. By contrast, two rounds of escalation with Hamas during 2011 affected nearly 1 million people.
During the heaviest fighting this year, Gaza-based terrorists largely ignored the Israeli border town of Sderot, which has taken the brunt of previous rocket strikes dating back nearly a decade.
According to Rubin, just three of the 280 rockets fired at Israel during the heaviest periods of fighting in 2011 landed in Sderot. With their terror rockets capable of firing much longer distances, Gaza jihadists have largely ignored Sderot and focused on hitting Israeli cities like Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon.
But the Iron Dome system appears to have significantly diminished the destructive power of Hamas' arsenal. Earlier this year, both Beersheba and Ashkelon were subject to repeated attacks, but "very few of the Palestinian rockets penetrated the active [Israeli missile] defense, minimizing loss of life and property damage," Rubin wrote. "The combined Israeli toll in both flare ups was one dead and less than 10 severely injured."
He added that "the relatively minimal casualties and property damage enabled the Israeli government to manage the crisis without escalating the violence."
The early success of the system has created a strong demand for the new missile defense system from communities in southern Israel. Israel expects to have a total of four Iron Dome batteries activated by the end of the year.
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