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Israel says it’s developing new ballistic missile shield with US amid Iran tensions

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Israel is developing a new ballistic missile defensive shield, the Arrow-4, with the United States, amid heightened tensions with Iran, the Ministry of Defense said on Thursday.

“Arrow-4 will be an advanced, innovative interceptor missile with enhanced capabilities. It will address a wide range of evolving threats in the region and will replace the Arrow-2 interceptors over the next decades,” the ministry’s statement read.

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Jointly manufactured by US firm Boeing Co, Arrow-3 is billed as capable of shooting down incoming missiles in space, an altitude that would destroy any non-conventional warheads safely. It passed its first full interception test over the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 and was deployed in Israel in 2017.

Israel has recently stressed the importance of its “ironclad” partnership with the US and the need for Washington’s support in protecting itself from its regional rival Iran.

Israeli officials discussed security cooperation with their political and military US counterparts, including Washington’s top diplomat for the Middle East David Schenker mid-January.

Tel Aviv said then the discussion emphasized Israeli force build up and cooperation in the field of missile defense “in light of increasing security threats posed by Iranian activities and the proliferation of advanced weapons in the Middle East.”

Israel has long described Iran’s ballistic missile program as a threat to its existence and the international community, while Tehran maintains the missile development is merely for defensive purposes.

A rare address by the IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi in late January warned that Israel will respond with extreme counterattacks “in the next war” against threats from its enemies, namely Iran and its allied Shia militias in the region.

US President Joe Biden has said that if Tehran returned to strict compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, Washington would follow suit and use that as a springboard to a broader agreement that might restrict Iran’s missile development and regional activities.

Ruling out talks over its military capabilities, Tehran insists that Washington should take the first step by lifting all sanctions reimposed on Iran after former President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may find the alliance with the US tested if Washington restores participation in the Iran nuclear deal.

Biden told Netanyahu that he intends to strengthen defense cooperation with Israel and affirmed his personal history of steadfast commitment to Israel's security, the White House said on Wednesday.

- With Reuters

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