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MISSILE DEFENSE
Israeli missiles down rockets fired from Syria: army
By Steve Weizman
Jerusalem (AFP) Sept 17, 2016


Israel readies for 1,500 rockets a day in next war
Jerusalem (AFP) Sept 16, 2016 - Israel's army estimates that thousands of rockets could slam into the Jewish state in any future conflagration, military sources said Friday ahead of a nationwide civil defence drill.

"Total war on several fronts, destruction of essential equipment and infrastructure and heavy rocket bombardment" all form part of the scenario for the exercise, which runs from Sunday until September 21, the army said.

The drill is based on projections of the army's Home Front Command, which estimates 1,500 rockets crashing into the country each day, military sources said in a briefing to Israeli reporters, local media reported.

The projectiles could be launched simultaneously by Lebanon's Shiite militia Hezbollah across Israel's northern border and to a far lesser extent from Hamas-ruled Gaza in the south.

Hamas is said to have been left seriously weakened after a 2014 Gaza war against Israel, but it still holds thousands of rockets, according to a military official.

Hezbollah has at least 100,000 and probably more, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Only around one in 100 rockets is likely to hit a building, military sources say, with the rest falling on open ground or being intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system.

They say 95 percent of rockets fired will likely carry a light payload and have a range of less than 40 kilometres (25 miles), but Hezbollah can hit densely-populated central Israel with dozens of rockets each day.

The Home Front Command, tasked with leading and coordinating civil defence, regularly publishes maps showing the maximum time, by location, that Israelis have to take shelter after air raid sirens sound.

In Tel Aviv, Israel's seaside commercial and leisure capital, the time to scramble to safety has been reassessed from 90 seconds at present to 60 in the next conflict.

After a 2006 war with Hezbollah, an official inquiry criticised authorities for lack of preparedness and organisation in civil defence procedures.

During that conflict, the Shiite militia rained about 4,000 rockets on Israel and sent a million civilians into shelters, many of them dilapidated and cramped.

The 34 days of fighting took the lives of more than 1,200 on the Lebanese side, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, almost all soldiers.

Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system destroyed two rockets fired from Syria at the Israeli-held zone of the Golan Heights Saturday in an apparent rise in tension between the uneasy neighbours.

"A projectile fired from Syria was intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defence system. No injuries have been reported," a military statement said on Saturday afternoon.

"This is the first time that fire from Syria has been intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defence system," a military spokesman told AFP in response to a query.

Later in the day the army said Iron Dome took down a second projectile.

It was a marked departure from recent tit-for-tat artillery fire and occasional retaliatory air strikes.

Israel deployed batteries on its northern flank as a precautionary measure after a 2015 Israeli air strike against the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah group's forces in Syria.

Israeli public radio said that the military believed the latest fire from Syria was an unintentional spillover from the country's complex civil war which is now in its sixth year.

Israel has sought to avoid being drawn in to the conflict, but has attacked Syrian military targets when fire fell on its side of the divide.

On Tuesday, Israeli aircraft targeted Syrian army positions after what the military said was probably stray fire hit the Israeli-occupied zone.

Syria said it had shot down an Israeli warplane and a drone, a claim denied by Israel.

The increased tension comes after a fragile new Syrian ceasefire brokered by Russia and the United States came into force on Monday.

The truce does not apply to areas held by jihadists such as the Islamic State group.

The Israeli army holds the Syrian government accountable for any fire from its territory, regardless of the source.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

During the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip enclave, Israel deployed its Iron Dome system on land to shoot down rockets fired into the Jewish state.

Funding for the missile system was part of an unprecedented $38 billion US military aid package signed in Washington on Wednesday.

The deal covers the period from 2019 to 2028, and will see Israel receive $3.3 billion per year in foreign military financing -- up from $3.1 billion per year currently -- and $500,000 a year in funding for missile defence.


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