WASHINGTON - Congress approved a $225 million package to replenish Israel's missile defenses with its last order of business before a five-week recess, as the Jewish state's cease-fire with Hamas unraveled and Israeli forces pushed deep into Gaza in search of a missing army officer.
The House's 395-8 vote in favor late today followed Senate adoption of the legislation by voice vote earlier in the day. The money is directed toward restocking Israel's Iron Dome, which has been credited with shooting down dozens of incoming rockets fired by Palestinian militants over 3 weeks of war. The bill now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
At a White House news conference earlier today, the president reiterated his support for Israel's right to self-defense while urging greater protection for Palestinian civilians. Obama called for the immediate release of the soldier believed to be captured by Hamas and said it would be hard to put together another cease-fire after a 72-hour humanitarian truce collapsed almost immediately after going into effect Friday morning. He also cited Iron Dome as a concrete way the U.S. is helping "make sure that Israel is able to protect its citizens."
The defense system has emerged as a game-changer in the current round of violence with Israeli officials citing a success rate as high as 90 percent.
Iron Dome uses radar, advanced tracking technology and anti-missile batteries to follow the trajectory of an incoming rocket or mortar and determine if it is headed for a major population center. If an urban area is threatened, interceptors are fired to detonate in the air in close proximity to the missile. Projectiles not posing a threat are allowed to fall in empty fields. The system targets short-range rockets with a range between 2 miles and 45 miles; interceptors cost as much $100,000 apiece.
Created by Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Iron Dome has enjoyed strong U.S. technological and financial support.