$1 million worth of Iron Dome missiles fired at nothing due to ‘oversensitivity’

Israel’s air defense chief says Sunday night’s false alarm was caused by anti-missile system misidentifying automatic gunfire as rocket launches

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

The head of Israel’s air defenses on Monday said the unnecessary launch of Iron Dome interceptor missiles the night before was the result of the system’s “oversensitivity” and was not caused by a human or technical error.

Late Sunday night, Iron Dome missile defense batteries in southern Israel launched approximately 20 interceptors — each costing approximately $50,000 — which in turn set off incoming rocket sirens throughout the region, sending thousands of residents rushing into bomb shelters shortly before midnight.

According to Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovitch, the system misidentified automatic gunfire from the Gaza Strip as incoming rockets heading toward the southern Israeli community of Zikim.

Haimovitch told reporters that this was not a bug in the system, but the result of it being programmed to be more sensitive in light of the current unrest in the area.

“We don’t take chances as it relates to threats to Israeli citizens and property,” he said.

No rockets were actually fired, and an army official said the situation with Gaza remained normal — or “routine,” in army parlance.

Haimovitch said the air force “tries to find a balance” between keeping the Iron Dome and other air defense systems as sensitive as possible and avoiding false alarms and unneeded launches, as occurred on Sunday night.

“The tension is constant,” he said.

In addition to being a waste of Iron Dome rockets, such false alarms can also potentially desensitize Israelis, making it less likely that they’ll take future incoming rocket sirens seriously.

Despite the fact that no rockets were fired, the IDF retaliated to the false alarm with tank shells aimed at two Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip, the army said.

In a statement, the IDF said it “takes seriously all types of fire aimed at Israeli territory,” indicating the tank fire may have been fired under the mistaken belief the live-fire exercise had been aimed at Israel.

The late-night sirens and Iron Dome launches were apparently set off by the live-fire military exercise being held by Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Sunday.

Masked gunmen from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of the Hamas terror group, march with their weapons, during a large-scale drill across the Gaza strip, March 25, 2018. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

The incident highlighted rising tensions along the Gaza border.

Videos filmed by residents of southern Israel showed the launches of multiple Iron Dome interceptor missiles into the night skies.

Tensions have been on the rise between Israel and the terrorist groups in the Palestinian enclave in recent weeks, following a number of security incidents along the security fence.

On Saturday, a group of four masked Palestinian men entered Israeli territory after cutting through the chain link fence and tried to set fire to heavy engineering vehicles being used to construct a new above- and below-ground barrier around Gaza.

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