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Israel’s test of missile defense system called a success

JERUSALEM — Israel successfully tested its newest missile defense system on Sunday, the military said, a step toward making the third leg of what Israel calls its ‘‘multilayer missile defense’’ operational.

The ‘‘David’s Sling’’ system is designed to stop midrange missiles. It successfully passed its test, shooting down its first missile in a drill Sunday in southern Israel, the military said. The system is designed to intercept projectiles with ranges of up to 180 miles.

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Israel has also deployed ­Arrow systems for longer-range threats from Iran. And its Iron Dome protects against short-range rockets fired by militants in the Gaza Strip and by Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. Iron Dome shot down hundreds of rockets from Gaza in this month’s round of fighting.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the success of Iron Dome highlighted the ‘‘immense importance’’ of such systems.

David’s Sling, also known as ‘‘Magic Wand,’’ is developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon Co. and is primarily designed to counter the large arsenal of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon.

The military said the program, which is on schedule for deployment in 2014, would ‘‘provide an additional layer of defense against ballistic missiles.’’

The next generation of ­Arrow, now in the development stage, is set to be deployed in 2016. Called the Arrow 3, it is designed to strike its target outside the atmosphere, intercepting missiles closer to their launch sites. Together, the two Arrow systems would provide two chances to strike down incoming missiles.

The ‘David’s Sling’ system is designed to stop midrange missiles. It is primarily designed to counter the large arsenal of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon.

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Israel also uses US-made ­Patriot missile defense batteries against midrange missiles, though these failed to hit any of the 39 Scud missiles fired at Israel from Iraq in the first Gulf War more than 20 years ago. Manufacturers say the Patriot system has been improved since then.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, said Sunday that the Lebanese group would fire thousands of rockets into Israel in any future war and target cities in the country’s heartland.

Nasrallah’s warning came days after the eight-day Israeli offensive against Gaza ended with a truce. Nasrallah said ­Gaza militants had won ‘‘a clear victory’’ against Israel with their rocket bombardment.

Hezbollah, like Hamas and other Gaza militant factions, maintains a rocket arsenal and regularly threatens to use it. It fought an inconclusive 34-day war with the Jewish state in 2006 that left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead.

The Gaza war marked the first use by Palestinian factions of a longer ranged Iranian-made rocket, the Fajr-5. It caused no casualties but did trigger air raid warnings in the heartland cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which, unlike cities closer to the Lebanese and Gaza borders, have not experienced any sustained missile attack since Iraqi Scuds were fired in the 1991 Gulf War.

Hezbollah fired at least one long-range rocket ineffectually in the 2006 war. But Israeli intelligence now believes the militant group has the capability to strike anywhere in the country, although Israel now deploys air defense systems designed to counter the threat.

In the Gaza conflict, Israeli aircraft launched some 1,500 strikes on targets linked to the Palestinian territory’s Hamas rulers and other groups, while Gaza militants fired roughly the same number of rockets into ­Israel.

Hezbollah fired nearly 4,000 rockets at Israel during the 2006 war and is believed to have upgraded its arsenal since then. Nasrallah did not say how many missiles and rockets his group possesses, although in the past he said they have more than 20,000. Israel estimates the number at several times that.

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