Washington: US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has met his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak and discussed the situation in the region emerging after the last week’s ceasefire with the Hamas and strengthening the highly successful anti-missile Iron Dome system.
"Iron Dome really changed the landscape of the conflict and enabled us to act forcefully within a short time frame, trying to hit the target that should be hit but minimise the damage to civilians on the other side, while our population, 1.2 million, is continuously shelled by rockets and missiles from the Gaza Strip," Barak told reporters at a joint news conference with Panetta yesterday.
Barak appreciated the financial assistance provided by the United States for such a highly successful defence project, which saved lives of Israelis during the recent conflict with the Hamas in which the missiles of the later were intercepted and destroyed mid-year before they could hit the target in Israel.
"Only 55 rockets out of the 1,500 ended up falling in urban areas. The Iron Dome was extremely successful against salvos of rockets and about extrapolating the trajectory and not wasting a missile on a rocket that had to land, according to extrapolation of its trajectory, in an open area," he said.
Panetta said the US will continue to work together to seek additional funding to enable Israel to boost Iron Dome`s capacity further and to help prevent the kind of escalation and violence that has been seen from the Hamas. ("The events of the past month underscore something that the Israeli prime minister and I have said, that Iron Dome does not start wars; it helps prevent wars," he said.
"But achieving our shared goal of long-term security for the Israeli people ultimately requires the continued pursuit of a sustainable and comprehensive Middle East peace," he said.
Barak told Pentagon reporters that Israel is now working on further strengthening of the Iron Dome system and is having series of tests in this regard.
"We just accomplished a cycle of tests for the higher layer, second layer of the multi layered interception system named David`s Sling -- extremely successful,? he said.
"The interceptor just met physically -- no proximity field, just met physically the target in the air with much higher velocity than the Iron Dome. It is extremely promising, but interceptor is 10 times more expensive," he said.
The Israeli Defence Minister said efforts are on to improve the the performance of Iron Dome so that it could save, with the relatively cheaper interceptor, most of the challenges that were designed for David`s Sling, which is much more expensive.
"Over there we have the Arrows and the super Arrows. But in this part of the David`s Sling, I believe that Raytheon is deeply involved and we are working together," Barak said.