Photo Credit: Tsahi Ben-Ami / Flash 90
Israeli multi-layer missile defense system includes David's Sling (Magic Wand), the Arrow and Iron Dome.

The missile fired at Israeli warplanes last Friday by the Syrian Army weighed several tons and carried a warhead that contained 200 kilograms of explosives, according to a statement by IDF Air Defense Commander Brigadier-General Zvi Haimovich.

Syria fired the missile in response to an air strike carried out by Israeli warplanes on a convoy delivering “game-changing” weapons to a Hezbollah terrorist base in Lebanon.

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Speaking in an interview with the Hebrew-language Maariv newspaper, Haimovich confirmed the missile was the deadliest fired at Israel since the Gulf War. The instructions are very clear, he said: “to neutralize and intercept any threat to Israel,” explaining the factors that went into the decision to intercept it using the Arrow-3 anti-missile defense system.

The commander also said that if the Syrian missile had hit Israeli territory — most likely, the Jordan Valley — it could have resulted in heavy casualties and property damage. In terms of its weight and the amount of explosives packed into the missile, it was the deadliest rocket fired at Israel since the Iraqi Scud missiles launched at the Jewish State during the 1991 Gulf War.

Haimovich said the anti-aircraft missile was launched at the Air Force fighter planes as they were returning from the attack on the Hezbollah weapons convoy in northern Syria.

The threat was “certainly a ballistic threat and in this situation there are no question marks or dilemmas,” he added. The decision to intercept the missile, which was in the hands of the commander of the Arrow battery and the commander of the interception center, took place “within a fraction of a second,” Haimovich said. As a result, the commander of the Air Force and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot participated only retroactively.

Nevertheless, they fully justified and backed the decision. “If tonight or tomorrow or sometime in the future a similar case were to take place, we will not hesitate to take action against any ballistic threat,” Haimovich said.

The Arrow-3 interceptor missile that was launched last Friday cost about $3 million. The interceptor missile of the David’s Sling system has a range of 70 to 200 kilometers, and can intercept missile threats at up to 70 kilometers. The Iron Dome anti-missile battery has been intercepting medium-range rocket attacks for the past six years. The IDF already has 11 of the mobile batteries and the IAF will soon receive two more.

Israel’s air defense system now includes the operation of the Arrow-3, with an interception range between 2,000 to 3,000 kilometers — which enables the system to neutralize long-range threats such as the Iranian Shihab missiles. The air defense system also includes the American Patriot missiles, which have a range up to 70 kilometers and which are effective for intercepting short-range aircraft such as drones.

In recent months Hamas has launched a number of reconnaissance drones; two Hamas UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) flying in the skies above the Mediterranean Sea were intercepted by the IDF. Israel has been preparing for future “multi-stage” warfare that will feature simultaneous launches of missiles and rockets on several fronts that may include Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula, Lebanon and Syria — possibly ranging from dozens to hundreds of projectiles, aimed with more precision than ever before.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.