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Washington (AFP) Nov 29, 2012
The US and Israel on Thursday hailed the performance of the Iron Dome defense system during the recent Gaza conflict, with Washington stressing its continued "strong commitment" to the program.
The much vaunted Israeli anti-missile system played a prominent role in the eight-day confrontation between the Jewish state and Gaza-based militants that ended with a November 21 ceasefire deal.
"Iron Dome really changed the landscape of the conflict and enabled us to act forcefully within a short time frame," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, at a Pentagon news conference with his US counterpart Leon Panetta.
Due to the system, "only 55 rockets out of the 1,500 ended up falling in urban areas," he said in reference to Gaza rocket fire, noting that about 85 percent of the interceptions succeeded.
It was "extremely successful" against salvos of rockets and in extrapolating their trajectory, avoiding the "wasting" of a missile on a rocket headed to an uninhabited area, Barak added.
"The very knowing of the other side that you have such an effective system, especially when it will be equipped with many more interceptors -- it will change the balance of contemplation on the other side," he said.
"That's created a kind of logical kind of deterrent."
Panetta, meanwhile, assured Barak that Washington's "strong commitment to Iron Dome will continue" and that the Pentagon will work closely with Israel's defense ministry to "ensure that we are making the necessary investments."
"Iron Dome performed, I think it's fair to say, remarkably well during the recent escalation," Panetta said. "Iron Dome does not start wars. It helps prevent wars."
The United States have already spent $205 million to finance the system and have announced an additional contribution of $70 million in May. Israel, a major US ally, receives about $3 billion in US military aid each year.
Each Iron Dome battery has a radar detection and tracking system, a firing control system and three launchers for 20 interception missiles. Each has a range of between four and 70 kilometers (2.5 and 44 miles).
In part, Washington also finances other Israeli anti-missile systems: Arrow, to counter ballistic missiles, and David's Sling, for medium-range rocket or missile attacks.
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