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US to fund Israel's Iron Dome project

JERUSALEM (PTI): United States will provide USD 205 million to Israel for the production and deployment of new range of Iron Dome anti-missile defence system to protect the Jewish state from short range rockets of Hezbollah and Hamas.

The proposal, backing President Barack Obama's plan to give the Jewish state USD 205 million for the production and deployment of the system, was overwhelmingly voted by the House of Representatives by a 410-4 margin.

The Iron Dome anti-missile defence system run a successful test in January convincing senior defence officials that it will be able to effectively protect Israeli towns against short-range missiles, such as Katyushas and Qassams, which is used by Gaza's Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah.

The project's first phase, which included development, test runs and the manufacture of two batteries, required a budget of a little more than USD 200 million.

The Israel Air Force has also trained a special new unit to operate the defence system but the plan was not allotted an adequate budget.

The Israel Defense Forces ducked away from funding the project with its budget, explaining that offensive readiness was a higher priority, and the Israeli Defence Ministry had been looking for other budgetary avenues.

After the vote, US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman said that "with nearly every square inch of Israel at risk from rocket and missile attacks, we must ensure that our most important ally in the region has the tools to defend itself."

"The looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, and the persistent threat posed by Iran's allies Hamas and Hezbollah, only serve to reinforce our longstanding commitment to Israel's security," Berman added.

Florida congressman Ted Deutch commended the Obama Administration for "America's unyielding commitment to Israel's security."

The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC released a statement saying the decision that "will reduce the threat from Hamas and Hezbollah rocket attacks is a tribute to America's commitment to Israel's defence and underscores our fundamental security cooperation with Israel, an island of democracy surrounded by a sea of hostile terrorist and totalitarian threats."

"America stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Israel in their quest for peace and the right to live lives free of terrorism," the statement read.

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