US Congress Approves Funds For Israel's Iron Dome System, As Fighting Rages In Gaza

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    An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod July 8.
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    Smoke rises following what witnesses said were Israeli airstrikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip Friday.
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Even as a short-lived truce between Hamas and Israel went up in smoke in Gaza Friday, the U.S. Congress approved a $225 million emergency funding package for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, according to an Associated Press report. The bill was OK’d by the House of Representatives and Senate late in the day. It is being sent to President Barack Obama for signing into law.

At a White House press conference earlier Friday, Obama reiterated his support for Israel’s “right to defend itself.” The president said, “Not only have we been supportive of Israel in its right to defend itself, but in very concrete terms -- for example, in support for the Iron Dome program that has intercepted rockets that are firing down on Israeli cities -- we’ve been trying to cooperate as much as we can to make sure that Israel is able to protect its citizens.”

The Iron Dome system, built by Haifa-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., has enjoyed strong U.S. financial and technological support. Israel has received more over $700 million in American funds for the Iron Dome system since 2011. Israeli officials have claimed the system has a success rate of over 90 percent.

Meanwhile, fighting in the Gaza Strip raged on for the 26th day Saturday following the collapse of a cease-fire agreement hammered out with the help of the United Nations and the U.S.

At least 35 Palestinians were reportedly killed in airstrikes early Saturday near the city of Rafah in southern Gaza as Israel intensified operations to locate one of its soldiers who was supposedly captured by Hamas.

However, Hamas has denied capturing the soldier. The Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said in an online statement that “it [was] not aware until this moment of a missing soldier or his whereabouts or the circumstances of his disappearance. ... We believe all members of this group have died in an Israeli strike, including the Zionist soldier the enemy says disappeared.”

Al Jazeera reported at least six Palestinians were “executed” by Israeli forces near Khan Younis. Citing an anonymous witness, it said the six people had been rounded up by Israeli soldiers and shot. However, the report did not mention when the alleged executions took place.

More than 1,650 Palestinians and 66 Israelis have been killed since the fighting began July 8, AP reported Saturday. 

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