Israel's Iron Dome Defense System Nearly Ready

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GAZA BORDER, Israel - Israeli officials were pleased with Wednesday's test performance of the Iron Dome Missile Defense System, slated to be fully operational by mid-year, with the first batteries to be deployed along the border with the Gaza Strip in about two months.

During Wednesday's exercise involving Iron Dome's manufacturer, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., the Defense Ministry and Israel Air Force, the system successfully identified, tracked and destroyed a series of test rockets designed to replicate Kassams and the longer-range Grad-type Katyusha rockets.

Once the batteries are in place and fully operational along the Gaza border, the Defense Ministry will initiate the same deployment in the north, along the border with Lebanon.

General Pinchas Buchris, Defense Ministry director-general, predicted the Iron Dome system will "transform security for residents of southern and northern Israel."

Meanwhile, one day after the successful exercise, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired volleys of mortar shells on southern Israel.

There were no personal injuries or property damage from at least 10 mortars, some of which hit the northern Negev, while others exploded near the Kerem Shalom border crossing and others near the coast.

Following the mortar fire, the Defense Ministry closed the Kerem Shalom crossing, preventing dozens of truck loads of humanitarian supplies from being delivered to the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported.

The Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for Thursday's attacks. Two weeks ago, PRC terrorists fired four mortar shells at IDF troops patrolling the border. Last week, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine fired two Katyushas at southern Israeli communities.

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The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz contributed to this report.

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