Israeli official sees Tel Aviv shelled in future war

TEL AVIV - Israel’s most populated area, Tel Aviv, will be hit by rockets in any future war, a senior official said on Tuesday in rare remarks reflecting the limitations of U.S.-sponsored defences.

By (Reuters)

Published: Tue 10 Aug 2010, 9:53 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 5:47 AM

“In any future conflict, missiles will fall in the centre of the country, and the sooner we prepare in advance, the more lives we will save,” a statement quoted Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai as saying during a tour of emergency facilities in Herzliya, just up the coast from Tel Aviv.

Eyeing longtime foes Iran and Syria and their guerrilla allies Hezbollah and Hamas in neighbouring Lebanon and Gaza, Israel has accelerated the development of missile interceptors with help from Washington.

Israeli officials readily caution that such defences are not impenetrable, but public declarations on the vulnerability of Tel Aviv — the country’s densest conurbation and its commercial, military and cultural hub — are unusual.

Hezbollah and Hamas fired mostly short-range rockets at Israel during the Lebanon and Gaza border wars of 2006 and 2009. They have since said their new munitions have far greater range.

Iran, which the West suspects of seeking a nuclear weapon, has vowed to retaliate for any pre-emptive U.S. or Israeli attack with missile salvoes against Tel Aviv. Stalled diplomacy with Syria and a fatal border clash last week between Israeli and Lebanese soldiers have also rattled the region.

Nevertheless, Vilnai, who is in charge of Israel’s civil defences, said he did not anticipate war this summer.

Israel’s missile defences include several “tiers” of systems designed to shoot down different types of missiles. It signed a deal last month with the United States to jointly upgrade its Arrow II ballistic missile interceptor over the next five years.

The Obama administration secured $205 million from the U.S. Congress to help develop Iron Dome, the bottom “tier” of the system, which would shoot down the mortar bombs and short-range rockets favoured by Hezbollah and Gazan militants. Israel plans to deploy the first Iron Dome batteries by November. An Israeli interceptor for longer-range battlefield rockets, David’s Sling, is scheduled to be operational by 2013.

Israel began planning the shield after Tel Aviv and other cities suffered 39 Iraqi Scud missile strikes during the 1991 Gulf War, a barrage that American-staffed Patriot interceptors deployed in the country failed to stem.

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