Israel's Iron Dome interceptions of Palestinian rockets during eight days of Gaza fighting cost US$25 million to US$30 million, the government said on Thursday, arguing the US-backed system was well worth the money.
"Were Iron Dome traded on the [Tel Aviv] stock exchange or Nasdaq, it would have multiplied its share value several times over," Civil Defence Minister Avi Dichter told Israel Radio.
Using radar-guided interceptor missiles, Israel's five truck-towed Iron Dome batteries shot down 421 of some 1,500 rockets launched from the Gaza Strip between November 14 and Wednesday's Egyptian-brokered truce, the military said.
It put Iron Dome's success rate at 90 per cent. To lower costs, the system engages only rockets that threaten populated areas, though it often fires two interceptor missiles at once.
Rockets killed five people in Israel and wounded dozens during the conflict, police said. Three died in coastal Ashdod on a day when Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, Iron Dome's state-owned manufacturer, said the system had suffered a malfunction.
If more Hamas rockets had got through, especially the handful fired at Tel Aviv, and caused mass casualties, devastating Israeli retaliation perhaps including a full-scale ground assault would have been nearly certain.
A senior official estimated that such escalation could cost Israel as much as US$380 million a day. Israel says it needs 13 batteries for satisfactory nationwide defence.