Since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense Israel's aerial defense has won nearly universal praise for its interception of rockets headed toward Israeli cities.
"We are very pleased with the interception rates," aerial defense commander Brig. Gen. Shachar Shochet said on Thursday. "We have intercepted dozens of Grad and Qassam rockets fired by Hamas and other groups, and prevented serious harm to our civilians."
Regarding the deadly rocket attack on Kiryat Malachi, which was not intercepted and killed three people, Shochet said the event is being investigated. "We are analyzing unsuccessful attempts as well as the numerous successful Iron Dome launches. There is no such thing as a hermetic seal [of aerial defense] and therefore it is crucial that Homefront Defense directives are followed."
The rocket that exploded in Kiryat Malachi led to a "sense of failure and missed opportunity," according to a senior aerial defense officer. "We could have very high interception rates, but even if the percentages are higher than 90, there are still the lone rockets that do fall on southern communities," he said. According to the officer, the battery that failed to shoot the Kiryat Malachi rocket successfully intercepted more than 20 Grad rockets fired at Ashdod and Kiryat Gat afterwards.
Asked if the Iron Dome system is capable of shooting down rockets headed toward central Israel, the officer said that Iron Dome has evolved with each round of violence in the Gaza Strip and "now is capable of dealing with things it could not deal with before." The officer noted, however, that just as the missile-intercepting systems have improved, "the terror groups are learning as well."
A fourth Iron Dome battery was deployed in southern Israel this week after having its systems upgraded. The battery was deployed as a result of Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari's assassination on Wednesday.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited an Iron Dome battery near the southern city Beersheba. He thanked the soldiers manning the battery for their work during Operation Pillar of Defense. "No other country in the world has technology like the Iron Dome," Barak said. "Had the system not existed, many civilians would be in harms way. However the system is not a 100 percent foolproof defense, and does not absolve citizens of their duty to closely follow instructions given by Homefront Command."
Barak has ordered that the delivery of a fifth Iron Dome battery to the Israel Air Force's Aerial Defense Network be pushed up to Saturday night. The battery had originally been scheduled to be delivered to the IAF at the start of 2013.