Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Sunday that a new system to intercept medium-range missiles fired at the country would become operational later in the day, providing increased security for the Israeli population.
The David’s Sling anti-missile system is designed to shoot down incoming rockets with ranges of 40-300 kilometers (25-190 miles). It will make up the middle tier of Israel’s multi-layer missile defense capabilities.
The lowest layer is the Iron Dome system, capable of intercepting short-range rockets, small unmanned aerial vehicles and some mortar shells like those that have been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip or from southern Lebanon. And at the top are the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems, which are intended to engage long-range ballistic missiles. The Arrow was put in use for the first time on March 17, when it downed an incoming Syrian anti-aircraft missile.
“This afternoon, we will make the missile defense system called David’s Sling operational,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. “This is important news. All Israeli citizens experienced the important achievements of Iron Dome against short-range missiles from Gaza.”
“We are completely committed to the security of Israeli civilians,” the prime minister added. “Within the framework of that commitment we are systematically working to strengthen Israel’s strike capabilities against its enemies, and in the same way, we are systematically working to strengthen our ability to defend ourselves against our enemies.”
The David’s Sling system is designed to intercept the kind of missile that could, for example, be used to target a large ammonia storage tank in the northern city of Haifa, which the head of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group has threatened to hit in a future conflict. In response to local authorities’ fears that the 12,000 ton tank could cause cost tens of thousands of lives if it ruptures, the Haifa District Court ordered it shut.
The Haifa Group warned last month that the court order to close the facility by an April 1 deadline could be the end of the company and is demanding government funds to offset a potentially costly move to relocate the storage facility to the Negev desert, or an extension of the deadline.
“We are giving protection to the home front and in parallel we are trying to solve the crisis concerning the ammonia tank. One the one hand we have a security commitment to the residents of Kariyot, that is clear as day,” Netanyahu said at the Sunay cabinet meeting, referring to the towns and communities near Haifa that are at risk from the tank. “At the same time we are doing everything we can to prevent the firing of 1,500 workers on the eve of Passover, and harming an industry that has still not organized to carry out the decision to close the tank.”
With the week-long Passover holiday set to begin on April 10, the prime minister added he hoped there would be a resolution regarding the storage tank in the coming days.
Hundreds of workers closed a major traffic interchange in central Israel on Sunday in a continuing series of protests over the loss of an expected 1,500 jobs from the court-ordered closure of the ammonia production plant. Three workers were arrested.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.