The top US military official confirmed that the Pentagon will replenish Israel’s anti-missile batteries on Iron Dome as new hostilities threaten to put the system back into heavy use.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Thursday the Pentagon would submit a budget proposal to Congress for additional missile interceptors, although the details were still being worked out.
“I had this conversation with Defense Secretary Benny Gantz. We were together about two weeks ago and we went through the details of his requirements, “Austin told a Senate Committee hearing on the Department of Defense budget proposal for 2022.” We are working on fleshing out those details and you will see a request in the future. “
Earlier this month, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said Gantz was planning to make a billion-dollar request to the Pentagon to replenish the Iron Dome missile defense system arsenal after the anti-aircraft batteries were drained during 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip in May.
“Iron Dome has performed incredibly well, saving thousands of Israeli lives and tens of thousands of Palestinians,” said Graham. “I could imagine that the government would say yes to this request and drive it through Congress.”
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US President Joe Biden last month promised to replenish Israel’s missile supply for its defense system, defying demands by some progressive lawmakers to reduce or end military aid to Israel.
When asked if the Pentagon supported the increase in Israel as a political matter, Austin replied, “Absolutely. We remain determined to support the defense of Israel. “
He also told lawmakers that the Defense Ministry “will ensure that Israel has the ability to defend itself effectively and maintain its qualitative military advantage.”
Hamas and other Gaza terrorists fired over 4,300 rockets at Israel as fighting flared up in May, according to the IDF, which said the rate of fire was the fastest ever.
According to the military, 90% of rockets fired on populated areas within Israel were shot down by Iron Dome.
Austin’s comments came as tensions in the Gaza region showed signs of snowballing again. IDF chief Aviv Kohavi reportedly said he could cancel his trip to the United States scheduled for Sunday. Kohavi is scheduled to meet with Austin and other senior defense officials, although talks are expected to center on fighting Iran.
On Thursday night, Israel launched intensive air strikes on Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip for the second time that week in response to the ongoing arson attacks from the enclave.
At least eight fires were started in southern Israel on Thursday, four on Wednesday and more than two dozen on Tuesday by balloon-fired incendiary devices fired from the strip, according to Israeli fire and rescue services.
The air strikes appeared to be Israel’s most significant retaliation against fire balloons in the three years since the Palestinians began using the tactic.
“That evening, the Chief of Staff conducted an assessment of the situation in which he ordered a higher level of readiness and ordered the IDF to prepare for a variety of scenarios, including resuming fighting in response to ongoing terrorist activity from the Gaza Strip, “Said the IDF.
Jacob Magid and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.