JERUSALEM – Israel’s Home Front Command finished development of a new radar system that will give residents time to reach shelter if they are targeted with mortar shells fired from the Gaza Strip, according to a radio report broadcast Monday.
Existing warning systems give residents 15 seconds to run to a shelter if they are targeted with short- and long-range missiles, but until now the army lacked a system that could give advance warning of mortar shells, which typically travel a shorter distance at a lower altitude.
Alon Schuster, head of a municipality in charge of several communities in Israel’s western Negev, just east of the Gaza Strip, welcomed the new warning system and told Army Radio that the new radar could save lives.
“Those 15 seconds are important. They improve the response time for anyone who needs to find shelter,” Schuster told Army Radio.
“People come to live here because they know that Israel does whatever it can to protect its citizens from existential threats, whether they come from the sky or from underground,” he said. The last comment was a reference to the terror group Hamas’ efforts to rebuild its network of terror tunnels.
The army began developing the new system after the 2014 Gaza War, when Hamas launched thousands of rockets and mortar shells at the Jewish state.
Because there was no warning system against mortars at the time, the shells proved to be among Hamas’ deadliest weapons. According to The Times of Israel, 10 IDF soldiers were killed in a single week by mortar shells. Three more Israeli civilians and a Thai national were killed as well.
Developing the radar cost some NIS 500 million ($132 million). It was due to be completed in 2015, but was delayed due to budget constraints, the Times of Israel reported.