JERUSALEM — Israel's "Iron Dome" defense system has emerged as a game changer in the current round of violence with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, shooting down dozens of incoming rockets and being credited with preventing numerous civilian casualties.
By shooting down over 90 percent of its targets, the system is ensuring Israel's decisive technological edge that has helped it operate virtually unhindered in Gaza.
At the same time, it's also providing a much-needed sense of security on the home front.
Gaza militants have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, some more than 60 miles deep, covering an area of about five million citizens. But beyond some jitters and discomfort, they haven't hurt Israelis much, causing no casualties and very little damage.
"The Iron Dome system and its impressive success thus far have had a strategic impact on managing the campaign. It gives us wide options," said Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon. "Having said that, we cannot become complacent."
Israel has deployed seven batteries across the country that, coupled with a high-tech warning system, have given it its best defensive capabilities ever.
The "Iron Dome" system quickly recognizes the trajectory of incoming rockets and whether they are headed for major population centers. Those are shot down, while others are allowed to fall in empty fields to spare the hefty cost of firing the sophisticated interceptors. Local reports say each launching costs about $20,000.
On Thursday afternoon, the system was deployed for the first time in Jerusalem. Two puffs of smoke could be seen in the sky — apparently after intercepting two incoming rockets.