Planes departing from and arriving at Ben Gurion Airport have been diverted from their regular take off and landing routes in order to avoid being hit while the Iron Dome is intercepting rockets over central Israel, according to an IDF officer.
The officer, Major Itamar Abo, admitted that the aerial defense system "isn't 100% accurate." Due to concerns that the intercepting missiles could hit planes, the defense establishment has decided to "slightly reroute" the passenger and cargo jets in order to allow them take off and land safely.
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The fifth Iron Dome battery, dubbed by the troops "Hallelujah," has only been deployed in the Tel Aviv region since Saturday and has already intercepted several rockets fired from Gaza. The battery was completed two and a half months early due to the escalation in hostilities in the south, and the IAF was forced to put together a crew to operate it within just two days – a process that usually takes months.
Iron Dome fires intercepting missile (Photo: Yedioth Ahronoth)
Abo, who commanded over one of the other Iron Dome batteries before starting his bachelor's degree in October, was called up to assemble and oversee the unit.
According to the officer, the battery has been intercepting Fajr-5 rockets, which are domestically built in Gaza and have a range of 70 kilometers.
For each rocket that appears to be making its way towards an urban area, an intercepting missile is fired, Abo said. A missiles that is fired but does not intercept a rocket self-destructs midair.
On Sunday, a fragment from a defense missile hit a car in the central Israeli city of Holon after neutralizing a rocket fired towards the region. The vehicle caught fire. To avoid getting injured by such shrapnel, Abo urged residents to abide by safety rules.
"These fragments aren't big but aren't small, either," Abo said. "A covered bus stop is all it takes to protect you from them."
Midair interception (Photo: Shmuel Virovnik)
The officer stated that the battery is capable of identifying when a barrage of rockets has been fired towards central Israel. Nevertheless, he warned, the missile defense system isn't flawless.
"A rocket that isn't intercepted could cause a disaster in such a populated area," he said. "The system isn't yet perfect, and the protection it provides isn't absolute. This is why we can't be lazy; we must find shelter when the sirens sound."
Unlike in the south, where residents have mere seconds to reach shelters, residents of central Israel have a minute and a half to find a fortified area.
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