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Israel successfully tests new laser missile defence system

JERUSALEM (AP): Israel's new laser missile defence system has successfully intercepted mortars, rockets and anti-tank missiles in recent tests, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Thursday.

The Israeli-made laser system, designed to complement a series of aerial defence systems such as the costly Iron Dome deployed by Israel, will be operational as soon as possible, Gantz said.

The goal is to deploy the laser systems around Israel's borders over the next decade, Gantz added.

The tests took place last month in the Negev Desert.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in February that Israel would begin using the system within a year, sending a message to archenemy Iran.

Gantz said the laser system would be part of "an efficient, inexpensive, and innovative protection umbrella.

Israel has already developed or deployed a series of systems meant to intercept everything from long-range missiles to rockets launched from just a few kilometers (miles) away.

It has also outfitted its tanks with a missile-defence system.

Little is known about the laser system's effectiveness, but it is expected to be deployed on land, in the air and at sea.

The announcement came near the anniversary of the 11-day Israel-Gaza war, in which Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group fired more than 4,000 rockets toward Israel.

Israel said its Iron Dome defence system has been a great success, with a 90% interception rate against incoming rocket fire.

But officials say the system is expensive to deploy, and the new laser defence will be much more cost-effective.

The Defence Ministry released a short video showing what it said were successful interceptions of rockets, mortars and an unmanned aerial vehicle.

The video, which was highly edited and includes music, appeared to show a laser beam coming out of a ground station, hitting the targets and smashing them into small pieces.


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