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Friday, 28 August 2009

Israel assembles Iron Dome unit

Israel's drive to deploy the Iron Dome anti-missile shield against short-range rockets fired by Hezbollah and Hamas has moved up a gear with the induction of the first battalion to man the batteries that will operate on the borders with Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Iron Dome intercepted three 122mm Grad rockets, the type used by Hezbollah and the Palestinians, in southern Israel July 15-16.

The system came into being in response to constant rocket attacks by Hezbollah on Israel's northern front and Hamas on the southern desert frontier over the last decade.

Both fronts have been relatively calm for some time, although the threat remains palpable.

Hezbollah has not fired any rockets since the end of the 34-day war with Israel in August 2006.

But Israeli President Shimon Peres claimed Sunday that the Iranian-backed militants have now amassed 80,000 rockets of various calibers, some with ranges of up to 160 miles and reportedly able to reach Tel Aviv, since that conflict ended.

During the 2006 war, Hezbollah unleashed some 4,000 Iranian and Syrian rockets into Israel in the most sustained bombardment of the Jewish state since it was founded in 1948. More