The sudden escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in May of 2021 was rekindled by violent confrontations between Jewish and Palestinian protesters on 6 May in East Jerusalem, who were awaiting the Supreme Court of Israel's decision to evict six Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, a predominantly Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.
The following day, Israeli police stormed the compound of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount, the third-holiest site in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism respectively - officers used tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse stone-throwing Palestinians. The assault coincided with Qadr Night, an Islamic holy day, and Jerusalem Day, an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem.
Before an official ceasefire came into effect on 21 May, Palestinian militant organisations Hamas and Islamic Jihadhad fired over 4,360 rockets and mortar shells at southern and central Israel from Gaza, two thirds of which missed their target. Israel responded with an aggressive campaign of airstrikes targeting the Gaza Strip, whilst having intercepted rockets entering Israeli airspace using their missile-defence system, Iron Dome.
Iron Dome is a mobile, all-weather air defence system developed by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems and is designed to intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells launched from distances of 4-70 kilometres, developed over the course of 3 years for just $200 million. It constitutes as part of a multi-tiered missile defence system that Israel was developing in 2016 aimed to protect the country from threats to national security.
The system relies on missile defence batteries that consists of 3 main components:
According to a spokesperson from the Israel Ministry of Defence, Iron Dome has intercepted more than 2,400 rockets bound of civilian areas since it began operating in early 2011. During Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, the Israeli Air Force claimed that Iron Dome intercepted 421 rockets from Gaza before a ceasefire was announced. Iron Dome was also employed during Operation Protective Edge, intercepting 735 projectiles launched by Hamas targeting southern, central and northern parts of Israel.
During the most recent conflict of the 2021 Israel-Palestine crisis, Iron Dome shot down 1,428 rockets with an interception rate of 95%. As a result of Iron Dome's success, Israel has only suffered a dozen civilian fatalities, in stark comparison to more than 240 Palestinians deaths. The Israel Defence Forces have also claimed to have shot down a Hamas drone crossing into Israeli airspace using an Iron Dome battery.
Undoubtedly, Iron Dome's immense potency and performance in battle provides a comforting sense of security to the Israelis in a time of political turbulence. Its military prowess broadcasts a strong deterrent message to any adversaries lurking within its umbrella of protection, fending off most attacks and discouraging Hamas' futile rocket assaults.
Yet, Iron Dome’s impressive success rate and popularity also seems to dampen any possibility for a permanent ceasefire — Israeli leaders no longer feel the need to search for a diplomatic solution. Thus, there seems to be no conclusive end in sight to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a blood-soaked rivalry that has been simmering for the last 73 years.
"It's very success is a reflection of Israel's biggest problem. Iron Dome allows you to almost ignore the fact that you have a neighbour just across the border with thousands of rockets pointed at you, because they can no longer really harm you."
— Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Post