On Saturday morning, Hamas sent a barrage of rockets into Israel. But Israel military’s vaunted air defence system intercepted several of them, though some did find their mark.

New Delhi: On Saturday morning, Palestinian terror group Hamas sent a barrage of rockets into Israel and infiltrated the country by air, land, and sea, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare that the country was “at war”.

In a rare public statement, Mohammed Deif, head of the Palestinian group’s military wing al-Qassam Brigades announced the group had fired over 5,000 rockets in the “first strike of 20 minutes” under ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’. In addition, the militant group also launched ground attacks, infiltrating military bases and overrunning parts of two southern Israel towns, reportedly taking hostages in the process.

Significantly, several of the rockets that were sent towards Israel were intercepted by the Iron Dome — an air defence system meant especially for this purpose — although some did find their mark.

In a statement, Israel’s army said it was fighting the militants who entered the country by land, sea and air using paragliders. “It was a combined ground raid which happened through paragliders, through the sea and through the ground,” Israeli army spokesman Richard Hecht told reporters.

What Is Iron Dome?

Iron Dome is Israel’s short-range air defence system known for taking down largely unguided rockets fired from Palestinian territory. Operational since 2011, the system has by and large maintained a success rate of above 90 percent and had even touched 97 percent.

But in May this year, the Iron Dome reportedly clocked 44 percent success — considered its worst performance yet. The Israeli Air Force later ascribe it to a glitch that was resolved, bringing its success rate back to over 90 percent.

Developed by Israeli firms Rafael Advanced Defence Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, the Iron Dome was meant to counter rockets from the Iran-backed Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah and from the Gaza Strip, where Hamas took control in 2007.

Iron Dome is part of Israel’s larger air defence shield — in addition to this, the country also has David’s Sling and Arrow, a system designed to counter medium- and long-range threats, that also includes planes and drones.

The Iron Dome does not take down every single rocket fired at Israel. Instead, it relies on a system of radar and Artificial Intelligence to determine whether an incoming rocket is a threat and fires an interceptor only if the incoming rocket risks hitting a populated area or infrastructure. If there’s no such danger, the system ignores it and allows the rocket to land.

However, there are certain pitfalls to it — the primary being cost. Israeli media has reported that though the rockets are often crude and lack any kind of guidance systems, their sheer numbers and low cost are an advantage against Iron Dome.

While a rocket may cost as little as a few hundred dollars, each interceptor fired costs about $80,000. According to an estimate, Hamas has 30,000 rockets while Hezbollah has 1,30,000. There is a worry that in case of all-out war, both Hamas and Hezbollah can fire 4,000 rockets a day while Israel’s interceptor will eventually run out.

Is It Useful For India?

Asked if Iron Dome will be beneficial to India to protect important cities like the national capital, Air marshal Anil Chopra (Retd) who heads the Centre for Air Power Studies said he had been a proponent of the system since 2013. Set up in 2001, CAPS is an think tank promoted by the Indian Air Force.

“But now we have the S-400 missile system. And we are also looking at the American NASAM system for protection of the national capital. So, it does not make sense now,” he said.

A serving IAF officer explained that while Iron Dome is an excellent air defence system, it was created keeping in mind the threat faced by Israel. “India faces different threats. Israel has other air defence systems in place to cater to threats like what India faces. Also, we have a multi-layered air defence system and are developing our very own ballistic defence shield,” said the officer who did not want to be named.