US deploys advanced anti-missile system in Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) — The United States (US) has deployed a highly advanced missile defence system in Israel for the first time, the American and Israeli militaries announced on Monday, reflecting their shared concerns about Iran’s development of powerful missiles.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD), as a testament to the strength of the two countries’ military ties, saying that it makes Israel “even stronger in order to deal with near and distant threats from throughout the Middle East”.

Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli army spokesman, told reporters that a THAAD battery, flown in from the US and Europe, arrived on Monday at an air force base in southern Israel. He said that the defence battery has only been installed a few times elsewhere in the world, and tested the US ability to carry out accelerated deployment of such powerful and complex weapons.

Israel already has an advanced multi-layered missile defence system, capable of intercepting everything from advanced guided long-range missiles outside the atmosphere to short-range unguided rockets fired from neighbouring Gaza.

During this week’s drill, the THAAD battery, which shoots down long and intermediate range missiles, will bolster Israel’s existing systems. The deployment is temporary, and for now, the THAAD system will not be permanently integrated into the Israeli defence shield, Conricus said.

The US military echoed said the deployment demonstrates the US’ “continued commitment to Israel’s regional security” and more broadly shows that US forces can “respond quickly and unpredictably to any threat, anywhere, at any time”.

File photo of a US highly advanced missile defence system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) at a golf course in Seongju, South Korea. – AP