Iron Dome: what is Israel’s missile defence system and how does it work as Israel-Palestine conflict mounts

Hamas has fired rocket strikes from Gaza which pierced through the famous Israeli anti-missile system

Escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas which began to ramp up after Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa mosque have continued to spiral toward all-out conflict.

World leaders including Boris Johnson and Joe Biden have called for de-escalation, while social media is alight with disturbing videos of rocket attacks and violent clashes.

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Dozens of people have been killed already and hundreds injured, with the majority of casualties coming from the Palestinian side, including more than a dozen children, after Hamas rocket barrages were met with Israeli airstikes.

While the airstrikes have proved deathly effective, Israel’s air defence system, the Iron Dome has meant civilian casualties on their side have been kept to a minimum, with five dead and several injured on Tuesday night.

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What is the Iron Dome?

The Iron Dome is one of Israel’s high-tech defensive technologies, making up part of its future multi-tiered missile defence system.

Iron Dome: what is Israel’s missile defence system and how does it work as Israel-Palestine conflict mounts (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images)

Manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, the mobile, all-weather defence system is one of the most advanced in the world.

It has been in place for just over a decade, and reportedly has a successful interception rate of more than 90 per cent, blocking more than 2500 threats in that time.

It is designed to intercept threats which are headed for populated areas fired from anywhere between 2.5 and 43 miles away.

The system is made up of a large number of detection and tracking radars, unmanned missile firing units and manned management and control centers.

The key holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City (Photo: NWLD)

The system works by first using the radar to identify offensive rocket’s and work out where they are likely to land based on their current trajectory. If the system identifies that the rocket is likely to hit a populated area, it will launch one of its own missiles - or occasionally two - to destroy it before it can reach its target.

What are the rockets being fired from Gaza?

While Israel’s defence system is state of the art, both in terms of its tracking capabilities and the missiles it deploys, it is up against a rather more crude style of weaponry.

The rockets fired into Israel by Hamas are known as Qassams, and they are home-made using readily available materials such as metal piping and fertilizer.

The vast majority of projectiles fired at Israel are these Qassam-style rockets, which are composed of a metal pipe, welded on fins, rocket fuel made from fertilizer and sugar, and a war-head filled with homemade explosive.

They are cheap to make, but not particularly effective as they are extremely inaccurate and don’t do much damage compared with most modern rockets.

The majority are intercepted by Iron Dome, and those which get through tend not to do much damage, although Israelis have been injured and even killed by the rockets on a number of occasions.

One of the rumoured flaws in the Iron Dome is that it has a ‘saturation point’, meaning there is a maximum number of threats it can intercept at any one time, any any beyond that number will get through.

Footage on social media of the current attempts to attack Israel with rockets seem to suggest Hamas is trying to overwhelm Iron Dome and cross this saturation point.