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Israel's 'Iron Dome' has never been more important as it fends off Hamas attacks

The system was designed specifically to intercept short-range rockets, such as those being fired by militants from neighboring Gaza.
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Israel designed its vaunted Iron Dome air defense system for instances just like this as rockets have rained down from Hamas militants in neighboring Gaza.

The short-range system, which became fully operational in March 2011, has been "tested consistently" and "successfully prevented countless rockets from hitting Israeli communities," according Israel's Ministry of Defense.

The Israeli Iron Dome missile system in Ashkelon, Israel
The Israeli Iron Dome missile system in Ashkelon, Israel, in 2011.Uriel Sinai / Getty Images file

It's designed as a mobile anti-rocket, anti-mortar and anti-artillery system that should be able to intercept launches from from 2.5 to 43 miles away, according to a Congressional Research Service report on March 1.

It has radar that can detect where a rocket has been fired from, analyzing its route, trajectory and intended target spot. A command and control center can then launch its own Tamir missile to intercept the enemy missile.

"Israel has at least ten Iron Dome batteries deployed throughout the country, each designed to defend a 60-square-mile populated area," according to the CRS report. "Israel’s Defense Ministry claims that Iron Dome successfully intercepted 97% of all targets it engaged during a summer 2022 confrontation in which Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fired rockets into Israel."

The Iron Dome's importance to Israeli defense isn't lost on American lawmakers, who have voted frequently over the years to support its funding. The United States has provided nearly $3 billion in Iron Dome funding, according to the report.

An Israeli missile launched from an Iron Dome system attempts to intercept a rocket
An Israeli missile launched from an Iron Dome system attempts to intercept a rocket over Netivot, Israel, on Sunday.Mahmud Hams / AFP via Getty Images

Hours after the surprise attack on Saturday, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson lauded the system for number of lives it had saved.

"Thanks to the Iron Dome, we have not sustained tremendous casualties from the rockets that have been fired," Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an IDF spokesperson, said in a video statement, adding that most casualties have been from “close-contact fighting” and “cold-blooded killings” of civilians and soldiers.