POSTED: 3:34 a.m. HST, Mar 27, 2011
Israel will begin setting up its Iron Dome missile defense system in the south of the country after an upsurge in attacks from the Gaza Strip.
“I don’t want to create an illusion that Iron Dome, which we’re deploying today, will give a complete or comprehensive answer” to rockets from Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a Cabinet meeting, according to an e-mail from his office. “The real answer to the missile threat is a mix of offensive measures, deterrence and defensive measures.”
An Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip today killed two Palestinians, according to Adham Abu Selmeya, chief of emergency medical services in Gaza. The Israeli air force was targeting a group attempting to launch rockets, the army said.
Thirteen people have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since March 19, some of them civilians, and more than 30 have been wounded. Palestinians have fired more than 85 rockets and shells into Israel. There have been no deaths from those attacks. Israeli government officials blamed Palestinians for a March 23 bomb attack in Jerusalem that killed one person.
Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza said yesterday they are willing to halt rocket attacks provided Israel ceases military actions against the Palestinian enclave.
“We are committed to calm as long as Israel is committed to it,” the groups said in an e-mailed statement after a three- hour meeting in Gaza yesterday.
Netanyahu said at the Cabinet meeting that Israel “won’t hesitate” to respond to attacks, though it has no interest in violence increasing.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on March 16 offered to visit Gaza to heal an almost four-year rift with the Hamas movement, which refuses to recognize Israel or any agreements signed with it. Abbas met yesterday with Hamas officials in the West Bank to arrange his Gaza visit, Palestinian television reported.
Hamas seized full control of Gaza in 2007 after ending a partnership with Fatah, the main movement within the Palestinian Authority, leaving the authority controlling the West Bank. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the European Union and the U.S.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stalled in September after Netanyahu refused to extend a 10-month partial construction freeze in the West Bank settlements. Abbas has said he won’t negotiate unless all building stops.
Iron Dome aims to defend against rocket fire from Gaza and Lebanon. The system fires interceptor missiles against short- range rockets and artillery shells with ranges up to 70 kilometers (45 miles), according to Rafael, the Israeli defense company that designed it. President Barack Obama, as part of the U.S. promise to guarantee Israel’s security, last year pledged $205 million for the deployment of the system.