The Iron Dome missile defense system has achieved a 97 percent success rate intercepting incoming rockets, amid almost non-stop barrages launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group since Friday, the Israel Defense Forces said Sunday.
The Sunday morning IDF data put the number of rockets and mortars launched toward Israel since Friday evening at 580. Iron Dome, which is used when the incoming projectile is headed for populated areas, intercepted 200 of them.
In addition, 120 projectiles fell short and landed in the Gaza Strip.
The interception rate marks an ongoing improvement since Iron Dome, first deployed in 2011, faced its first major test during the IDF’s Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, when it managed to shoot down 75% of the incoming projectiles at which it was directed.
That rate rose to 80% success rate during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, and 90% during last year’s Operation Guardian of the Walls, the IDF said.
The latest major IDF operation against Gaza terror groups began Friday, to tackle what Israeli leaders said was an immediate concrete threat by the PIJ to Israeli communities. Operation Breaking Dawn began with a targeted strike on PIJ’s northern Gaza commander Tayseer Jabari, who was “responsible for the concrete threat in the last three-four days to fire anti-tank missiles and mow down Israeli civilians or soldiers in the Gaza border area,” according to IDF Spokesman Ran Kochav.
Despite Iron Dome, several rockets have struck populated areas, causing damage and minor injury.
A home in a town in the Eshkol Regional Council took a direct rocket hit in a rocket barrage on Sunday morning, authorities said.
The council’s security department said the family was in their reinforced room at the time of the attack and were unharmed, but that damage was caused to the home.
Pushed into development by former defense minister Amir Peretz and funded, in part, by the US government under the Obama administration, the Iron Dome completed its first real-world interception test on January 6, 2010, and was declared operational a year later.
In the past decade, the Iron Dome has been used extensively, especially along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, to counter the threat of rockets and, in recent years, mortar shells, as well as small drones. Though Israeli defense officials stress that the system is not unbeatable, its use in the past decade has been credited with saving many Israeli lives.
Israel hopes to partner with Washington on the Iron Beam project, a laser system to shoot down projectiles, including American investment in further development and deployment of the system.
The head of the Defense Ministry’s research and development team, Brig. Gen. (res.) Yaniv Rotem, said the system was a ‘game changer,’ after the ministry revealed in April that tests were conducted in March.
The Iron Beam, which is being developed with the Rafael weapons manufacturer, is not meant to replace the Iron Dome or Israel’s other air defense systems, but to supplement and complement them, shooting down smaller projectiles and leaving larger ones for the more robust missile-based batteries.