Israel has deployed its Iron Dome all-weather, mobile air defense system to the Golan Heights near the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, according to the latest reports.
There were videos in social media which showed convoys of trucks with missile defense batteries north-bound near the city of Baka al-Gharbiya in northern Israel.
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The major development came a day after an Iranian drone infiltrated the Israeli airspace through the Syrian border. The drone, which is thought to be a copy of American RQ-170 Sentinel drone captured by Iran, was later intercepted by an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) AH-64 Apache combat helicopter.
As a response to the airspace violation, Israel conducted large scale attack against Syrian targets including the drone’s launch site, the Tiyas Military Airbase near Palmyra. The strike reportedly targeted a facility housing the unmanned aircraft’s Iranian operators.
Eight Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-16 fighter jets conducting airstrikes in Syria faced massive anti-aircraft fire that forced one of the jets to crash in northern Israel. One pilot of the aircraft was seriously wounded and the other lightly.
According to the military, the Israel airstrike reportedly struck 12 targets including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria.
Iron Dome is an Israeli mobile all-weather air defense system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI).
The system is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) to 70 kilometres (43 mi) away and whose trajectory would take them to a populated area.
Israel hopes to increase the maximum range of Iron Dome’s interceptions to 250 kilometres (160 mi) and make it more versatile so that it could intercept rockets coming from two directions simultaneously.
Iron Dome was declared operational and initially deployed on 27 March 2011 near Beersheba.
On 7 April 2011, the system successfully intercepted a BM-21 Grad launched from Gaza for the first time. On 10 March 2012, The Jerusalem Post reported that the system shot down 90% of rockets launched from Gaza that would have landed in populated areas. By November 2012, official statements indicated that it had intercepted 400+ rockets. By late October 2014, the Iron Dome systems had intercepted over 1,200 rockets.
In addition to their land-based deployment, Iron Dome batteries will in the future be deployed at sea, where they will protect off-shore gas platforms in conjunction with Israel’s Barak 8 missile system.
Iron Dome is part of a future multi-tiered missile defense system that Israel is developing, which will also include Arrow 2, Arrow 3, Iron Beam, Barak 8 and David’s Sling as early as 2018.