Who won?

 There is some dispute whether or not Israel started the recent round of warfare with the Gaza terrorist groups by taking out Zuhair Qaisi, who was the Head of the Popular Resistance Committees, or whether it was one of the terrorist groups, probably Islamic Jihad that is a proxy of Iran, that was continually firing missiles into Israeli territory. Whoever started the clashes, it is clear that Israel won. The uncanny result is that although over 200 missiles were fired into Israel, approximately 50 were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, and there were no fatal Israeli casualties. On the face of it, this is miraculous, something like divine intervention. But, in this case it was not God providing the protection, it was man-made technology.

The three Iron Dome batteries that are deployed in southern Israel, one each for Ashdod, Ashkelon and Beersheva, work by calculating the trajectory of the incoming missile and checking to see if it is going to land in populated or unpopulated areas. If the latter then it does not fire its anti-missile missile, but if the former then it does fire. This is calculated instantaneously within milliseconds, without manual intervention. If the Iron Dome system fires, then results show that there is a greater than 90% chance that the incoming missile will be intercepted and destroyed. Wow!

WIth the effectiveness of the Iron Dome and the presence of shelters in most places and instructions from the Home Front Command closing schools and work and not allowing meetings and telling people how to protect themselves in the event of a missile nearby, then the casualty count in Israel is much lower than expected given that there are a million Israelis within rocket range of Gaza. The terrorists could use longer range missiles (greater than 40 km) but have failed to do so, maybe because they fear the reaction of the IDF, if they actually hit Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

Another reason for the low Israeli casualties is the efficiency of the IDF, with drones and aircraft they can hit a potential group of rocket launchers within seconds of detection. So even though the terrorists could in principle outnumber the abilities of the IAF, in practice they cannot do so. So the casualties in Gaza were 22 dead, all of them terrorists (a young boy who died later was not wounded by the IAF). This uneven casualty outcome is clearly the reason why the terrorists agreed to a ceasesfire after 4 days. The ceasefire was mediated through Egypt, whose military Government is still holding power.

There are two aspects that were positive for the terrorists, they clearly brought normal life in southern Israel to a standstill during the barrages of missiles, that Israel cannot afford for a long period, and in doing so terrorized the population. Also, to fire one anti-missile missile costs $50,000, against a few hundred dollars for the missiles used by the terrorists. Nevertheless, the success of the systems mean that Israel will be deploying a fourth battery in a few weeks. Since the effectiveness of the missiles has been counteracted by the successful anti-missile system, the terrorists will have to re-think their strategy.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.