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April 5, 2017 6:55 am

Israel’s David’s Sling Goes Online Amid Heightened Tensions in Israel

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The joint US-Israel David Sling’s defense system test-fires an interceptor missile. Photo: Wikipedia. – David’s Sling — an anti-missile system — became operational on Sunday, marking the completion of Israel’s three-tiered air defense arsenal.

David’s Sling, also known as the “Magic Wand,” joins the Iron Dome and Arrow systems — all three of which were jointly developed and funded by the US and Israel.

As the middle tier of Israel’s missile defense apparatus, David’s Sling is designed to intercept mid-to-long-range ballistic missiles with ranges between 25-190 miles. Iron Dome intercepts short-range targets, and Arrow has the longest-range capabilities (its latest iteration can intercept long-range ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere).

Iron Dome has been widely praised for protecting Israeli civilians from Hamas rocket attacks, particularly during the 2012 and 2014 conflicts in Gaza. And last month, Arrow intercepted a Syrian missile — the system’s first operational use in its 17 years of existence.

Sunday’s David’s Sling inauguration ceremony at Israel’s Hatzor military base was attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Air Force (IAF) Commander Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel and Brig.-Gen. Zvika Haimovich, commander of the IAF’s Aerial Defense Division.

“David’s Sling is a system that covers the ranges in between,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony. “It has immense significance [for] Israel’s security, and I would like to praise the people of the Defense Ministry, the IDF, research and development and all the other elements that acted to enable this system to be operational. We are defending the home front.”

Defense Minister Lieberman said that there is “no alternative to this system. … Thanks to this system, we will be able to deal with our enemies, which we unfortunately have.”

David’s Sling came online amid heightened tensions on multiple fronts, including Israel’s northern borders with Lebanon and Syria, its southern borders with Gaza, and the increasingly active Egyptian Sinai border.

In the north, the IAF has reportedly struck Syrian military targets and Hezbollah weapons convoys several times in recent months, prompting Syria to fire a surface-to-air missile at an IAF plane. This led to the Arrow system’s first operational use in March.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah is estimated to have built a weapons stockpile consisting of more than 100,000 missiles and rockets — 17 times more than it possessed a decade ago, at the end of the Second Lebanon War. Hezbollah’s weapons stockpile includes medium- and long-range missiles, such as Iranian Fajr-5 missiles, M-600 rockets, Zelzal-2 missiles, short-range M75 rockets and Katyushas.

In response to Hezbollah’s massive weapons cache, four new Israeli Sa’ar 6 missile ships — which are currently being manufactured in Germany — will each be equipped with dual Iron Dome systems to protect Israel’s offshore gas rigs.

Along Israel’s southern borders, there have been several incidents of rockets being fired into the Jewish state from Gaza and the Sinai since the beginning of 2017.

Hamas has threatened more rocket attacks after the recent assassination of high-ranking Hamas terrorist Mazen Faqha. Although the Jewish state has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement in the killing, Hamas has issued multiple calls for revenge against Israel.

Since the 50-day war in Gaza in 2014, Hamas has significantly expanded its efforts to develop its rocket capabilities. The Palestinian terror group has reportedly started producing new high-powered rockets, similar to those produced by Hezbollah, and has designed these rockets to exploit vulnerabilities in the Iron Dome system by equipping them with high-explosive payloads, and only firing them at close-range targets.

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