Operators of the Iron Dome missile defense system did not err Sunday night when they fired at machine gun fire emanating from the Gaza Strip, an IDF official said Monday. Rather, the army said it was better to be safe than sorry when monitoring a live-fire exercise conducted by the Hamas military wing.
“There was no human error and no technical mishap,” said Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovitch, commander of the IDF air defense apparatus. “The system was and is over-sensitive, in concert with the situation analysis that we do from time to time… the way we treat Gaza is not exactly like the way we treat the northern theater. Defending Israeli civilians takes precedence any time we face a dilemma: It is standard procedure not to take risks if there is even the smallest risk of a civilian or civilian property being harmed.”
Responding to reporters’ questions about wasted money – it costs about $50,000 to fire each Iron Dome missile – Haimovitch said the system identified an unidentified incoming launch that appeared to be ballistic and that threatened the Zikim Beach area, south of Ashkelon. He repeated that the army’s primary goal is to protect Israeli civilians.
“We try to maximise defense. That costs money,” he said. “The financial cost is not part of military consideration when making operational decisions. Not only was there no technical or human mistake made, but our forces acted professionally… we saw something coming in from Gaza that appeared in every way to be ballistic. At that moment, I didn’t care if it was a mortar, a missile or heavy automatic fire.”
Haimovitch also noted the “complicated surroundings” that IDF troops face on the Gaza border, including a variety of weaponry, and added that Iron Dome operators had just five seconds to decide whether or not to fire. He praised troops for making a “brave, sharp and professional” decision.
“Civilians could have gotten hurt last night. None did,” he said. “We will continue to reduce the threats (to Israeli civilians) despite the high costs.”