Missile defenseIsrael successfully tests David’s Sling mid-range missile defense system

Published 26 November 2012

During the just-ended Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel made military history by successfully employing a missile defense system to protect the country’s population: during the 8-day war, Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched 1,506 rockets and missiles at Israeli towns and cities; of those, 1,057 fell harmlessly in empty fields, but 449 were headed toward populated centers; of the 449, Israel’s Iron Dome system intercepted 421, and 28 hit buildings, killing five; yesterday Israel announced the successful test of David’s Sling, a mid-range missile defensive system; the system is designed to protect against missile with a range of up to 180 miles, like the missiles in the hands of Syria and Hezbollah

On 20 April 2001, the first kasam rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip against an Israeli town in south Israel. The Gaza Strip was still ruled by the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Yasser Arafat.

Between April 2001 and today, there were two major changes in Gaza:

  • In August 2005, Israel ended its occupation of the Gaza Strip, forcibly evacuating 8,500 Israeli settlers who had settled in the territory since it was occupied by Israel in June 1967.
  • In June 2007, Hamas, in a bloody coup, wrestled control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority. There was no love lost between Hamas and the PA, and one way in which Hamas expressed this attitude was to stage medieval-like public executions: Gaza PA leaders were taken to the roofs of high-rise buildings, and then, still alive, thrown to their death below, in view of thousands of Palestinian spectators.

One thing that has not changed was rocket launches against Israeli civilians. In all, since April 2001, different Palestinian organizations have launched more than 7,361 rockets and missiles against Israel. Israel retaliated to these launches in two ways:

  • What Israel calls “targeted” attacks – which included the assassination of leading military and political leaders of these organization, killing rocket launch crews, destroying weapons storage and production facilities, the destruction of smuggling tunnels from the Sinai peninsula into the Gaza Strip, and more
  • Israel has also engaged in two broader operations: Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008 – 8 January 2009), and Operation Pillar of Defense (14-22 November 2012).

Since April 2001, fifty-nine Israelis were killed in Palestinian rocket attacks. The number of Palestinians killed in Israeli retaliatory attacks is 4,716.

The figures above do not include the 4,200 rockets Hezbollah fired on cities in the north of Israel during the 34-day summer 2006 war with Israel.

Missile and rocket defense
Operation Pillar of Defense was different from earlier engagements in that, for the first time, Israel effectively used an active missile defense system called Iron Dome. To be more precise: Israel first used the system against Hamas Grad rockets in April 2011, and had used it sporadically since, but these were experimental deployments.

The deployment of five Iron Dome batteries during Operation Pillar of Defense signifies a new Israeli strategy, a strategy with implications for Israel’s on-going conflict not only with Hamas, but with another Iranian agent in the region, Hezbollah, and Israel’s strategy vis-vis-vis Iran itself.