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US, Israel ink deal on short-range missile defense

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Israel on Monday agreed to advance work on a weapons system that would help Israel defend against short-range ballistic missiles like those launched by Hezbollah during the Lebanon war of 2006.

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency announced the deal late on Monday evening, saying it underscored “the continued commitment of the United States to the defense of Israel.”

News of the agreement about the so-called “David’s Sling” missile defense project comes amid continued tensions between Israel and Iran, and Russia’s decision last week to ban the export of high-precision missile systems and other weapons to Iran.

Army Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, signed the agreement with several top-ranking Israeli military officers, including Rear Admiral Ophir Shoham, who heads Israel’s defense research agency.

The agreement continues efforts initiated under a U.S.-Israeli short-range missile defense agreement signed in 2008, the agency said.

The new weapons system will help Israel bolster its defenses against short-range and theater ballistic missiles, large-caliber rockets, and cruise missiles, it said.

It includes continued development of the Stunner interceptor being developed by Israel’s Rafael and Raytheon Co as part of Israel’s layered missile defense system.

“David’s Sling will also address the threat posed by the types of inexpensive and easily-produced short-range missiles and rockets used during the 2006 Lebanon War,” the agency said in a statement.

It will also advance low-altitude intercept technology and provide that technology to benefit U.S. and Israeli industry, it said.

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