Close up on Israel's Iron Dome air defence system

Israeli soldiers watch as an Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket near the southern city of Beersheba Photo: REUTERS/Baz Ratner

A key reason why the repeated rocket attacks on Israel have not caused more loss of life is the Israeli Iron Dome defence system.

The Iron Dome is meant to shoot down rockets and artillery shells with ranges of up to 45 miles.

The home-grown system allows the army to predict the flight path of incoming rockets and relay coordinates to missile units. The rockets can then be shot down before reaching their targets.

It was commissioned soon after Israel's 2006 conflict with Hezbollah when dozens of Israelis were killed as rockets showered the country from neighbouring Lebanon.

Israeli soldiers watch as an Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket near the southern city of Ashdod Credit: REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

The militant group Hamas has previously used short-range missiles. But in recent days it has also fired a number of Iranian-built Fajr 5 missiles which are capable of reaching heavily-populated areas like Tel Aviv.

The Iron Dome was first tested in combat in April 2011 when it successfully intercepted a rocket fired at the southern city of Beersheba.

There are currently five batteries in operation at different locations in Israel, the latest being deployed in Tel Aviv.

According to the Israeli army, some 240 missiles had been intercepted by the Iron Dome as of Saturday night with a 90% success rate.

An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern city of Ashdod Credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Maintaining such a complex air defence system is not cheap, with each interceptor missile costing around $60,000 (£38,000).

  • Each Iron Dome battery costs about $50m (£32m) to install.
  • The Tamir interceptor missile cost roughly $60,000 (£38,000) each.
  • As of Saturday night, Israel had spent around $29m (£18m) on interceptor missiles.

Despite the heavy costs involved, the Iron Dome has been widely praised in Israeli defence circles and there are plans to deploy a further eight batteries by next year.

Watch John Irvine's report on how the Iron Dome has saved hundreds of lives - both Israeli and Palestinian.