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Netanyahu thanks Obama for 'Dome' missile funding

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 18, 2011
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked US President Barack Obama on Monday for helping fund a missile defense system protecting the Jewish state from Palestinian rockets, the White House said.

Netanyahu "expressed his deep appreciation for US funding for the 'Iron Dome' rocket and mortar defense system, which he noted has successfully intercepted several rockets aimed at Israeli communities," the White House said in a readout of the phone call.

Obama "congratulated the prime minister on this impressive Israeli technological achievement and expressed his pride that Israeli-American cooperation made it possible."

The American president called Netanyahu in part to wish him a happy Passover, the White House said.

The US Congress approved $205 million -- sought last May by Obama -- to help Israel deploy a short-range anti-missile defense system called "Iron Dome." The aid became official when Obama signed off on a 2011 budget appropriation.

The figure is in addition to Washington's annual military finance package to key Middle East ally Israel.

Since 2007 the United States has allocated close to $3 trillion per year to Israel, entirely devoted to the purchase of US weapons, under a bilateral memorandum valid until 2017.

Netanyahu assured in a statement Saturday that with the US funding, "we will protect civilians and cities of Israel against rockets fired from Gaza."

The Israeli army has now deployed Iron Dome in two locations, first in the southern desert city of Beersheva on March 27, just days after it was hit by Grad rockets fired by militants from the Gaza Strip, and on April 4 around the southern port city of Ashkelon.

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