Once again, Iron Dome is a strategy-changer

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 17, 2014

The success of the Iron Dome missile defence system throughout Operation Protective Edge has allowed Israel to hold back, for now, from launching a ground offensive in Gaza.

The rocket shield has also allowed Israel to accept Egyptian proposals for a ceasefire, even when it was clear that Hamas would continue firing rockets.

The operation began last week with seven Iron Dome batteries deployed in southern and central Israel. Since then, two new batteries have been added.

These batteries, along with other advanced sensors the IDF has around Gaza, provide an early-warning system detecting any rocket being launched, as well as determining in seconds where it is heading, sounding the missile warnings in that region and, if the point of impact is assessed as a built-up area launching "Tamir" interceptors to destroy it.

In the first days of the operation, the Defence Ministry calculated the interception success at over 90 per cent. In around a dozen cases, missiles got through and hit buildings. The relatively small number of injuries was as a result of the residents taking shelter on time.

Officers in the IDF's Home Command have warned that the impressive results of Iron Dome interceptions, while saving lives, could also cause a more lax atmosphere among Israelis. They stressed that no defence system is fail-proof and residents in areas where warnings are heard are at risk if they rely on Iron Dome and don't take cover as the sirens are heard.

The efficiency of the defence shield is one of the main factors causing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to limit the Israeli response to air-strikes.

On Tuesday morning, when the security cabinet agreed to the ceasefire proposal and paused the air strikes for nearly six hours, Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched salvo after salvo for the next few hours until Israel decided to resume its attacks on Gaza. The pause however, strengthened international support for the Israeli operation and could never have been maintained for so long without Iron Dome.

Last updated: 2:30pm, July 17 2014