Israel plans to deploy its new medium-range missile interceptor David's Sling by mid-2016 after the U.S.-backed system passed final trials, defense officials said on Monday. David's Sling is designed to shoot down rockets held by Israeli antagonists such as Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas with ranges of 100 to 200 km (63-125 miles), as well as cruise missiles and drones. David's Sling, along with the Iron Dome short-range rocket interceptor and the Arrow ballistic missile interceptor, both already operational, will form a multi-level shield that the Israelis are developing with Washington's help as a bulwark against Iran and its allies on the Israeli border. The three systems incorporate a network of radar-guided interceptors designed to shoot down everything from the low-flying, Katyusha-style rockets of Hezbollah and Palestinian guerrillas to the ballistic Shehab and Scud missiles of Iran and Syria.
A Defense Ministry statement said on Monday that David's Sling had passed a fourth set of field trials constituting "the final milestone before declaring delivery of an operational system to the Israeli Air Force in 2016". One official told Reuters the plan was to have a small number of David's Sling launcher sites operating by mid-2016, a deployment that would eventually be doubled. Also known as Magic Wand, David's Sling is being manufactured jointly by Israel's state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd and U.S. firm Raytheon Co. Israel's Elbit Systems Ltd. provided command and control technologies. Rafael also makes Iron Dome, which has been extensively bankrolled by the U.S. Congress. Israel and the United States say Iron Dome batteries have proven capable of shooting down around 90 percent of Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza.
Israel increases the security measures as Lebanon-based Shiite Iranian-backed Hezbollah group which is directly involved in the war in Syria, continues to pose a threat to Israeli national security. Three rockets fired from southern Lebanon landed in northern Israel on Sunday and the Israeli military responded with "targeted artillery fire," Israeli officials said. No injuries or damage was reported. Sirens wailed in northern Israel where the rockets hit and the Israeli army said it "holds the Lebanese Army responsible for attacks emanating from its territory." Lebanese security officials said the rockets were fired from an area south of the Lebanese port city of Tyre. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
Along with tightening the security measures, Israel carries out direct attacks on senior Hezbollah members. A Lebanese man convicted of one of the most notorious attacks in Israel's history and who spent nearly three decades in an Israeli prison has been killed by an Israeli airstrike near the Syrian capital, the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah group said Sunday. Hezbollah officials have pledged to avenge the killing of Samir Kantar, sparking fears of escalation in an already volatile region. In a possible first response, three rockets were fired into Israel from Lebanon late Sunday. Kantar had said that he had been working, with the backing of Hezbollah, to set up "the Syrian resistance" to liberate the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and annexed 14 years later. Hezbollah said Kantar was killed along with eight others in an airstrike in Jaramana, a suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, on Saturday night. According to Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV, two Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace and fired four long-range missiles at the residential building in Jaramana. It aired footage of what it said was the building, which appeared to be destroyed. Kantar's brother, Bassam, confirmed his "martyrdom" in a Facebook post on Sunday.
In Israel, he gained notoriety for the kidnapping and grisly killing of a man named Danny Haran and his 4-year-old daughter, in the coastal town of Nahariya. Kantar was 16 at the time, and a member of the Palestinian militant group the Palestine Liberation Front. He also killed a policeman during the attack, and is alleged to have beaten the four-year-old to death with a rifle butt. As the attack unfolded, the girl's mother hid inside a crawl space inside their home and accidentally smothered their crying two-year-old daughter, fearing Kantar would find them. Kantar was imprisoned in 1979 in Israel and sentenced to three life terms, but was released as part of a prisoner swap with Hezbollah in 2008. While many in Israel were outraged at his release, in Lebanon he received a hero's welcome and the following year he was awarded Syria's highest medal by Syria's Bashar Assad.
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