The Iron Dome system designed by Israeli engineers to intercept the short-range Palestinian missiles battering Israel from the Gaza Strip is turning out surprisingly to be a wonder weapon.
The three batteries posted in Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon have all but eliminated the number of Grad missiles getting through for direct hits and so far saved their populations from fatal casualties since Jihad Islami started shooting missiles at a dozen Israeli towns and villages Friday, March 9.
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that top Iranian and Hizballah missile experts posted at Hamas and Jihad Islami's military headquarters in Gaza went to work Sunday to puzzle out counter-measures for disarming the novel interceptor. For the Palestinian Jihad’s operation to be counted a success, its mobile multiple Grad launchers must get past Iron Dome and bring devastation and multiple fatalities to an important town, like one of the three shielded by the interceptor.
In the last 24 hours, Iron has intercepted an estimated 40 missiles aimed from the Gaza Strip at major towns. In Beersheba, Iron Dome missed three. Two hit buildings including an empty school and damaged cars but, aside from shock victims, caused no casualties.
Western intelligence sources watching the asymmetric duel between the Palestinian Grads and Israel’s Iron Dome note that it is incumbent on Iran and Hizballah to find an answer to the Israel interceptor – else the short-range, surface-to-surface missile programmed as the primary weapon of a second strike capacity against Israel after an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites, loses its punch.
It is true that the Fajr 5 missile in Hamas hands is more advanced that the weapons used in the current campaign, armed with advanced guidance systems and able to launch from a pit multiple missiles which automatically home in on target.
But Hamas has been very reluctant to join the missile offensive launched by Jihad Islami and the Popular Resistance Committees, after the latter’s chief was killed by a targeted Israeli air strike, and shown very little enthusiasm for being co-opted to the Israeli-Iranian conflict as part of a potential two-front, pro-Tehran offensive to be launched from Lebanon and Gaza against the Jewish state.
It is therefore doubly urgent for Iranian and Hizballah missile experts to winkle out an electronic gap in the Iron Dome’s tracking and launching systems, while Israeli military engineers are working just as hard to perfect their weapon and introduce surprise innovations to slow the other side down. Col. Zvi Haimovich, head of the IAF missile interception unit, said Sunday: “We must close the last gap between “a 90 percent and a perfect performance.”
Meanwhile, the batteries are being shifted at speed from place to place to make it harder for the missile launchers to home in on unprotected areas outside Iron Dome’s shield.
The ability of the Iranian and Hizballah experts to win their battle of minds with their Israeli antagonists faces a critical test Sunday night and Monday. Its outcome will show up in the performance of Jihad Islami missile strikes in the next 24 hours. It will also determine the duration of the current Palestinian-Israeli clash.
Their failure to outwit the Iron Dome ought to promote the chances of American and Egyptian mediators achieving a Gaza soon and without conditions.
Iron Dome has unexpectedly become a key strategic X in the equation between Israel and its adversaries. Its defense ministry is now pushing hard for the production of at least another half a dozen batteries to seal off the rest of the population in range of missiles from Gaza.