By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Israel's Iron Dome interceptions of Palestinian rockets during eight days of Gaza fighting cost $25 million to $30 million, the government said on Thursday, arguing the U.S.-backed system was well worth the money.
"Were Iron Dome traded on the (Tel Aviv) stock exchange or Nasdaq, it would have multiplied its share value several times over," Civil Defence Minister Avi Dichter told Israel Radio in an interview where he outlined the system's outlay.
Using radar-guided interceptor missiles, Israel's five truck-towed Iron Dome batteries shot down 421 of some 1,500 rockets launched from the Gaza Strip between Nov. 14 and Wednesday's Egyptian-brokered truce, the military said.
It put Iron Dome's success rate at 90 percent. To lower costs, the system engages only rockets that threaten populated areas, though it often fires two interceptor missiles at once.
Rockets killed 5 people in Israel and wounded dozens during the conflict, police said. Three died in coastal Ashdod on a day when Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd, Iron Dome's state-owned manufacturer, said the system had suffered a malfunction.
If more Hamas rockets had got through, especially the handful fired at the commercial hub Tel Aviv, and caused mass casualties, devastating Israeli retaliation perhaps including a full-scale ground assault would have been nearly certain.
A senior official estimated that such escalation could cost Israel as much as $380 million a day. Keen to stem that risk, the United States has been helping bankroll Iron Dome. President Barack Obama pledged further support on Wednesday.
Israel says it needs 13 batteries for satisfactory nationwide defence. A defence industry source put the unit cost for Israel at around $50 million.
The focus of Israel's aerial assault on Gaza were the stockpiles and launch silos of rockets imported or improvised by Hamas and other factions. Gaza medical officials said 162 Palestinians were killed, more than half of them civilians.
The most potent of those rockets were Iranian-designed Fajr-5s with 75 km (46 mile) ranges and 175 kg (385 lb) warheads, though Hamas also said it used a Gaza-made variant, "Qassam M-75".
Iran denies supplying arms to the Palestinians. But the Iranian Young Journalists Club website on Wednesday quoted the commander of the Islamic republic's Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, saying the corps had "put the technology of Fajr-5 missiles at their (Gazans') disposal and right now a good number of these have been made and are available to them".
Summarising the Gaza assault in a separate Israel Radio interview, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said: "Hamas's heavy rockets were destroyed (and) a large part of the mid-range rockets were destroyed."
BEFORE YOU GO
23/11/2012 05:31 GMT
Clinton Warned Netanyahu: Don't Punish Palestinians For U.N. Bid
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during her talks in Israel this week not to take any extreme actions in response to the Palestinian move in the United Nations for recognition as a non-member state. Clinton said such steps against the Palestinian Authority could bring about its collapse. The Palestinians are planning to ask the United Nations General Assembly to vote on upgrading its status from non-member entity on the symbolic date of November 29.
The day after the cease-fire with Hamas took effect, Israel is preparing for the next crisis with the Palestinians, which is scheduled for six days from now. November 29th is the anniversary of the United Nations vote on accepting the Partition Plan in 1947, which led to the founding of the Jewish Sate. It is also the United Nations' International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Read more here.
23/11/2012 03:50 GMT
Report: U.S. Urges Israel Not To Build In E-1 Areas
From the Jerusalem Post:
Washington is urging Israel not to allow construction in the area known as E-1 between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim as a possible response to the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition next week at the UN, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Building in E-1, which would create contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim to the northeast beyond the Green Line, is something various Israeli governments have long wanted to do, but which US opposition has prevented.
Read more here.
23/11/2012 00:01 GMT
Life In Gaza's Courtyards
The New York Times' Jodi Rudoren chronicles displays of pride and sacrifice:
Inside a courtyard, there are faded remnants of “Congratulations from the uncles,” from the April wedding of a son of Ahmed al-Jabari, the commander of the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, whose assassination last week was the beginning of the latest round of intense battle between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
On the wall outside, the colorful Arabic script reads “Welcome hajji, Abu Muhammad,” a reference to Mr. Jabari’s return from a pilgrimage to Mecca last month. Nearby, the freshest paint pronounces a message from the troops: “Rest in peace. The mission has been accomplished.”
Read the full story at the New York Times.
22/11/2012 23:19 GMT
PHOTO: Egypt Tunnel Into Gaza
Egypt Tunnel into Gaza:
An underground tunnel connecting through which I got into Gaza from Egypt. Israel has repeatedly targeted the tunnel network, trying to hinder flow of goods and weapons into the strip. (Photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy via Flickr)
22/11/2012 22:55 GMT
Soldiers Show Frustration Via Viral Facebook Photo
16 soldiers spelled out 'loser' with their bodies to critique Netanyahu and show frustration at not going into battle.
22/11/2012 22:29 GMT
Who Brokered The Ceasefire
The Economist discusses how the ceasefire was achieved and whether it could lead to lasting peace in the region.
Among others coming and going were the UN secretary-general, the American secretary of state and the foreign ministers of Turkey and Germany. But the real bargaining took place behind closed doors at the headquarters of General Muhammad Shehata, Egypt’s intelligence chief. There, in separate rooms, the Egyptians haggled with a legal adviser to the Israeli prime minister, and with representatives from Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that runs Gaza, and a smaller, more radical Palestinian faction, Islamic Jihad.
22/11/2012 21:22 GMT
Israeli Arab Arrested for Tel Aviv Bus Bombing
From the Associated Press:
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's army spokeswoman says an Israeli Arab who is a member of Hamas has been arrested for Wednesday's bus bombing in Tel Aviv.
The bombing injured 27 people near Israel's military headquarters and threatened to scuttle efforts to broker a cease-fire to end fighting between Israel and Gaza.
Israeli military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich reported Thursday on Twitter that authorities had arrested the man who planted the bomb on the bus and identified him as an Arab Israeli from the village of Taybeh. She said he was a member of Hamas.
22/11/2012 20:41 GMT
Arrest Made In Tel Aviv Bus Bombing
@ haaretzcom :
BREAKING: #Israel security forces arrest suspects in #TelAviv bus blast http://t.co/91fS0v48
22/11/2012 20:38 GMT
A Palestinian Boy
A Palestinian boy and militants of the Izzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, attend funerals of five Hamas militants in Mugharka village, central Gaza Strip, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012. Five Hamas militants were killed in an Israeli air strike yesterday, Palestinian health officials said. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
22/11/2012 20:28 GMT
Israel-Gaza Conflict Winners And Losers
While the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Gaza on Wednesday brought an end to the rockets and airstrikes, the political fallout is just beginning. The Associated Press offers a breakdown of who won and who lost as a result of the truce agreement:
Read the full story on HuffPost World.