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Cyprus set to buy Iron Dome from Israel — report

Greek newspaper says Israeli-made air defense batteries to be used by Cypriot military to protect against Turkish threat

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

File: An Iron dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel, on August 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: An Iron dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel, on August 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel is set to sell its Iron Dome air defense system to regional ally Cyprus, a Greek newspaper has reported.

According to a report Friday in Kathimerini, the Cypriot Defense Ministry has begun to “implement the government’s decision to purchase” the Iron Dome, and agreements pertaining to the deal have already been signed with Israel.

The paper did not say how many batteries would be purchased, and there was no indication of when they were to arrive.

Israel’s Defense Ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.

In March, the chief of the Cypriot military, Demokritos Zervakis, was in Israel on a first visit, which included a tour of an Iron Dome battery.

Last week, Defense Minister Benny Gantz hosted his Cypriot counterpart at the Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv. Thanking Charalambos Petrides for his country’s military cooperation with Israel, Gantz said, “In such challenging times, partnerships are crucial.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (right) and his Cypriot counterpart, Charalambos Petrides, meet at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, August 11, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Gantz said he was “pleased that our establishments have been working closely, and that our industrial cooperation has become a pillar not only of our bilateral relations, but also to regional security and stability.”

He added, “We also value the trilateral framework with Greece. It is an asset to the force build-up of the individual countries, as well as to wider regional security.”

According to Kathimerini, the Iron Dome would be used by Cyprus against potential hostile Turkish actions, including drones, from the mainland or Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus.

With its 70-kilometer range, one system could cover the entire island, the report said.

The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and Turkish Cypriots reject the internationally recognized Cypriot government’s authority over the island’s northern third.

File: Smoke trails are seen as rockets launched from the Gaza Strip are intercepted by the Iron Dome over Sderot on August 7, 2022. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Friday’s report comes amid warming ties between Jerusalem and Ankara following years of frosty relations that saw Turkey emerge as one of Israel’s most vocal critics internationally.

Originally designed to intercept rockets, the Iron Dome has since been upgraded and improved to allow it to also shoot down mortar shells, unmanned aerial vehicles, and cruise missiles.

The Iron Dome has intercepted thousands of projectiles in its years in service. It is credited with shooting down over 380 rockets from Gaza during the most recent round of fighting against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, at an unprecedented interception rate of 97 percent of the total rockets fired at population centers. (Most of the 1,175 rockets fired from Gaza fell in uninhabited areas in Israel or inside Gaza.)

The Iron Dome has been credited with saving hundreds of lives since it was first deployed in 2011.

Rockets from Gaza, on right, are seen in the night sky fired toward Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021, while Iron Dome interceptor missiles, on left, rise to meet them. (Anas Baba/AFP)

Israel is interested in selling the Iron Dome system abroad without exposing the proprietary technologies that make it work, as such information could be used by the country’s enemies to beat the system.

Reports in recent years have indicated plans to sell the system to other countries including Ukraine, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Azerbaijan. Such reports have not materialized or have been denied by Israel.

Due to Iron Dome being a joint Israeli-American project, a sale to a third party cannot take place without the approval of both developer countries.

The US has purchased two Iron Dome batteries under a 2019 agreement. Since then, the US Army has been working to integrate the system into its air defense array.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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