Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield swats Gaza rockets from the sky during nighttime barrage

Israel’s Iron Dome responds to incoming missiles during the clash with Gaza (Reuters/ Israel Defence Forces)

Isreal activated its Iron Dome missile defence system during an exchange of fire with the Palestinian Islamist group that runs Gaza in a conflict that threatens to escalate to a full-on war.

The Iron Dome is capable of intercepting incoming short-range rockets and mortars from up to 43 miles away.

The system has been active over Isreal’s populated areas since 2011 and the country is working on extending the interception range.

Footage captured overnight shows the streaks of light in the night sky above Tel Aviv as the bombardment took place.

On Tuesday and Wednesday morning, the militant group Hamas appeared to have fired more than 100 rockets within minutes towards the Israeli city.

28 people have so far been reported dead in Gaza and three in Israel and there have been hundreds injured during days of violence.

Israel also stepped up its attacks on the Gaza Strip, flattening a high-rise building used by Hamas and killing at least three militants in their hideouts yesterday.

This conflict is the heaviest fighting between the two sides since 2014.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to expand the offensive and just after daybreak, Israel unleashed dozens of airstrikes in the course of a few minutes, targeting police and security installations, witnesses said.

Iyad al-Bozum, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry, said airstrikes destroyed the central police headquarters in Gaza City, a compound with several buildings.

How does Israel’s Iron Dome work?

130 missiles targeted at Tel-Aviv

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The Iron Dome all-weather missile defence system was developed after a 2006 conflict with Hezbollah and cost billions of pounds.

It blankets Israeli cities with a radar signal that tracks and locks on to any incoming rockets that break through it.

Computers at a battle management control unit then process the incoming rocket’s trajectory and determine its impact location.

This information is relayed to a stationary missile firing unit which launches two intercepting rockets to disable the incoming missiles before they hit the target.

The system uses Tamir interceptor missiles which cost £40,000 each.

How many times has it been used?

Streaks of light are seen as Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip (Reuters)

The frequent clashes between Israel and Palestine mean the Iron Dome has been used in several conflicts.

It was deployed for the first time in 2011 and used in April, August and December of that year. It was used again in 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2019.

The system is continually being upgraded and refined as it is used.

What is happening now?

A fire rages at sunrise in Khan Yunish following an Israeli airstrike on targets in the southern Gaza strip, early on May 12, 2021. (AFP via Getty)

This current escalation comes at a time of political limbo in Israel.

Netanyahu has been caretaker prime minister since an inconclusive parliamentary election in March.

After failing to form a coalition government by a deadline last week, his political rivals have now been given the opportunity.

The support of an Arab-backed party with Islamist roots is key for the anti-Netanyahu bloc.

But the current tensions might deter the party’s leader, Mansour Abbas, from joining a coalition with Jewish parties, at least for the time being.

The sides have three more weeks to reach a deal. If they fail, Israel would likely begin an unprecedented fifth election campaign in just over two years.

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