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Defense Minister: It Would Take Israel Years To Deploy Rocket Defense System

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Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday it would take Israel years to successfully deploy a recently tested rocket defense system along the country's borders with the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

"We can't sow the illusion that now that development has been successfully completed, tomorrow morning there already will be complete protection for the Gaza area or the north," Barak said. "It will take years before we are equipped."

Barak, however, added that the newly tested Iron Dome rocket defense system, when deployed successfully, will significantly reduce hostilities in the Middle East as it would "save time of fighting and deter in many cases a potential enemy from really launching an attack."

The defense minister's remarks came a week after Israel announced that it had successfully tested the Iron Dome system, a rocket defense system aimed at protecting Israeli civilians from frequent rocket attacks launched by Hamas militants in Gaza and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Though the Israeli military did not specify when the new system would be deployed along the country's borders with the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, Israeli media reports did suggest that the system could be in place by May 2010.

Earlier in the day, a short-ranged rocket fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip had exploded in the Western Negev without causing any casualties or damages. The rocket attack came a day after an Israeli air strike killed three Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in retaliation to earlier rocket attacks.

Israel says that some 250 such rockets have been fired into southern Israel from Gaza Strip after separate unilateral cease-fires by Israel and Hamas ended the three-week long Gaza offensive in January 2009.

Israel imposed a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip ever since Hamas, a radical Islamist group took over control of the territory in June 2007, with the secularist Fatah party led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas controlling only the West Bank. Israel and the west consider Hamas a terrorist organization over its refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel, and back the more moderate Fatah faction that rules the West Bank.

Although Hamas has refrained from carrying out rocket attacks on Israel after the 22-day conflict in December-January, other Palestinian militants groups have continued to launch rockets into southern Israel.

Israel launched a 22-day offensive against the Hamas in the Gaza Strip during December 2009, in response to continued rocket fire into southern Israel by Palestinian militants in Gaza. The three-week war finally ended on 17th January with separate unilateral cease-fire by Israel and Hamas.

Palestinians claim that over 1,400 civilians in the Gaza Strip were killed in the conflict, but Israeli army says its investigations revealed that only 1,116 Palestinians were killed in the three-week long offensive.

In addition to the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, the Hezbollah militants in Lebanon also launch occasional short-range rockets into Israel. It is estimated that nearly 4,000 rockets bombarded northern Israel during its war with Hezbollah militants in 2006.

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