Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Israel to Deploy More 'Iron Dome' Anti-Rocket Defenses

JERUSALEM - Israel is planning to deploy four more batteries of its "Iron Dome" short-range missile defense system, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on April 3.
An Israeli soldier stands near a launcher March 27, part of the first "Iron Dome" missile defense system deployed in Israel. The system is designed to intercept rockets and artillery shells. (David Buimovitch / AFP via Getty Images)
Speaking on military radio, Barak said: "With the financial help of the Americans, we hope to equip ourselves with four new 'Iron Dome' batteries so we will have six in operation in the next two years."
He added that a second battery would soon be operational on the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip.
The first battery of the unique multi-million dollar system came into operation a week ago, stationed outside the southern city of Beersheva, in the Negev desert, just days after it was hit by several Grad rockets fired from the Gaza Strip amid a rise in tensions and tit-for-tat violence.
The system, the first of its kind in the world and still at the experimental stage, is not yet able to provide complete protection against the hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel, officials have said.
The system, developed by Israel's Rafael Advanced Defence Systems with the help of U.S. funding, is designed to intercept rockets and artillery shells fired from a range of between 4 kilometers and 70 kilometers (3 miles and 45 miles).
Each battery comprises detection and tracking radar, state-of-the-art fire control software and three launchers, each with 20 interceptor missiles, military sources said.
Militants in Gaza and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia have fired thousands of projectiles at Israel in the past.
According to plans, the system will first be deployed along the border of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, from where militants fired a daily barrage of improvised rockets prompting Israel to launch a devastating 22-day offensive in December 2008.
It will then be deployed along the Lebanese border, from where Hezbollah militants fired some 4,000 rockets into northern Israel during a 2006 war. It was that experience which prompted the development of Iron Dome.
Israel believes Hezbollah now has an arsenal of some 40,000 rockets.
But a complete deployment is expected to take several years.
In May last year, U.S. President Barack Obama asked Congress to give Israel 205 million dollars to develop the system, on top of the annual three billion dollars Israel receives from Washington.
Iron Dome will join the Arrow long-range ballistic missile defense system in an ambitious multi-layered programme to protect Israeli cities from rockets and missiles fired from Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Syria and Iran.
A third system, known as David's Sling, is currently being developed with the aim of countering medium-range missiles.

India Bans Iran Nuclear-Related Trade

NEW DELHI - India has banned trade in all goods and services with Iran that could help Tehran pursue development of nuclear weapons, a government statement said.
The changes were made in new foreign policy trade rules to conform with a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran related to its nuclear and missile development program, said the commerce ministry.
India sits as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
The changes posted on a government website on April 2 ban trade in all equipment, goods and technology which could contribute to Iran's enrichment-related, reprocessing or heavy water-related activities or to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.
Energy-hungry India, which has long enjoyed warm ties with Iran, has been treading a delicate path in its relationship with the Islamic republic as the United States presses New Delhi to break commercial links with Tehran.
The export ban comes as India has been struggling to work out a long-term method to pay for oil imports from Iran.
Iran is the second-largest crude supplier to India after Saudi Arabia and supplies up to 14 percent of the country's oil import needs. India imports around 80 percent of its crude oil.
India's central bank, in response to U.S. pressure, said in December oil and other import payments could not be made through a Tehran clearing house which Washington alleges is being used to bypass sanctions against Iran.
The decision meant India no longer had a means to pay for the fuel.
India and Iran have been negotiating for months on ways to resolve the payment deadlock on a long-term basis and salvage the trade, which is worth around $12 billion annually.
Late last month, Germany's Handelsblatt business daily said India was set to pay Iran for billions of dollars worth of oil imports by channeling funds to Tehran via the German central bank.
There has been no comment from India but earlier, government officials said such a route could be a way to break the payments deadlock.