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Israel to deploy third Gaza rocket interceptor within days


10:06, August 30, 2011

Israel to deploy third Gaza rocket interceptor within days 2011-08-30 01:15:41 FeedbackPrintRSS

by Gur Salomon

JERUSALEM, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday said a third battery of "Iron Dome" rocket-defense system would be deployed within days to bolster the protection of Israel's southern urban centers from ongoing rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.

"We intend to push Iron Dome forward as fast as we can. We will have a third battery available within ten days," Barak said during a visit to ELTA Systems Ltd., a leading local defense electronics company that had developed the rocket interceptor's radar.

Barak said a fourth battery is expected to be operational by the end of this year, while five more would be available within the next two years as part of a national emergency procurement program, according to a statement released by his office.

The Israel Air Force, which is responsible for operating the military's gamut of aerial defense systems, has pressed for the hasty purchase of additional Iron Dome batteries since April, when the system successfully shot down eight projectiles fired by Gaza militants.

In June, the U.S. Congress approved to this end 205 million U.S. dollars in special military funding, a symbolic contribution to a project that Israeli defense officials assessed could eventually require a billion dollars.

Barak's announcement on Monday comes amid an escalation of hostilities along Israel's borders with Gaza and Egypt over the past two weeks, with militants stepping up rocket attacks followed by Israeli military strikes throughout the coastal territory.

"The third battery will be able to defend Ashdod, in addition to those defending Ashkelon and Beersheba," Barak said, referring to major cities in southern Israel targeted by Gaza militants.

In a related development, Israeli army chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz ordered Monday a major reinforcement of forces along Israel' s border with Egypt and southern Gaza Strip.

Gantz made the decision after intelligence information received overnight pointed to a plan by Palestinian Islamic Jihad to carry out a large-scale attack as a sequel to the previous attack along the border with Egypt ten days ago in which eight Israelis were killed.

Asked to assess the current threat imposed by militant groups operating in Egypt's Sinai, Barak said he estimated that additional squads were roaming the vast region.

Barak said Israel was determined to strike "those who carry out attacks," and thwart their plans.

Commenting on a terror attack in south Tel Aviv early Monday in which eight Israeli civilians and policemen were injured, Barak said the security establishment was intent on not allowing militants to disrupt life in Israel.

Police identified the perpetrator of Monday's attack as a 22- year-old Palestinian from the West Bank city of Nablus, who went on a stabbing spree outside a nightclub packed with youths when the attack took place.

"The Shin Bet (Israel security service), police and the army are alert and ready to prevent militants from disrupting daily routine in Tel Aviv and within our cities," said Barak.


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