The mistaken activation of the Iron Dome anti-missile system in response to machine-gun fire from the Gaza Strip on Sunday was neither due to human error nor a technical failure, the Israel Defense Forces said on Monday.
“The system was oversensitive because of our situation assessment in light of the time of year,” said Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, commander of the army’s aerial defense corps.
“The system identified high-trajectory fire that threatened to hit in the vicinity of Zikim [a kibbutz near the Gaza border], and therefore the system was activated.”
Responding to criticism for firing a barrage of expensive missiles to intercept the nonexistent rockets, Haimovich said, “In weighing aerial defense against economics, defense always wins. Anywhere we have a dilemma, the mission takes precedence. We don’t take even the smallest risk that someone will be hurt because of financial costs.”
“We can’t promise hermetic defense, but ordinarily, we don’t take risks,” he added. “Not everything for which we activate our defense systems in normal times would activate it in wartime. But when I see a high-trajectory threat to Israel, I don’t care whether it’s a rocket, missile, bomb or bullet. Sometimes it’s also impossible to know, and for this reason, too, the decision is to activate and remove the threat.”
Nevertheless, the army said, it intends to make it clear to Hamas that it can’t set off the Iron Dome just by firing bullets, something that could tie up the system when it’s needed for a real missile interception. The army attacked two Hamas lookout posts in northern Gaza in response to the gunfire.
- Iron Dome malfunction embarrasses Israel as Hamas seeks missile defense system's vulnerability
- Tensions on Gaza border: Hamas drill falsely triggers Israeli missile defense system
- Israel gears up for large-scale clashes along Gaza border
The bullets were fired as part of Hamas’ live-fire military exercise on Sunday, which included launching rockets at the sea. Footage distributed the same day in Gaza showed armed men from Hamas’ military wing throughout the territory. Hamas practiced confronting an invading force of Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers in the buffer zones separating the border fence with Israel from built-up areas of Gaza.
Six people – one resident of Sderot and five tourists – were treated for shock caused by the rocket alert sirens and the sound of explosions from the Iron Dome missiles on Sunday.