The IDF has tested an anti-rocket missile system being designed to intercept and destroy short-range enemy rockets, despite doubts that Israel will continue the $200 million project.

The ‘Iron Dome’ (“Kipat Barzel” in Hebrew) system developed by the Rafael Military Industries, Ltd. passed muster, but may be scrapped due to its late delivery date. Although the system was approved a year ago, it is not expected to be ready for action until 2010.

That's not soon enough for Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has insisted Israel not surrender any more land to the Palestinian Authority before an anti-missile system is in place. The increasing pressure from the US to tie up final status talks with the PA by the end of President George W. Bush’s term in office has also contributed to the need to move up the schedule.

The Reuters news agency reported Monday that work on the Iron Dome may be halted due to the need to find a system that can be employed much sooner. Hamas terrorists in Gaza have begun firing longer-range GRAD missiles at Israel. Islamic Jihad announced yesterday that they are preparing longer range missiles of a different type, but which could reach Ashkelon.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is reconsidering his prior commitment to the Iron Dome given the current security situation and in response to pressure from residents in Gaza Belt communities who need protection now.

Iron Dome is hampered by its inability to protect areas within 4.5 kilometers (3 miles) of the rocket launch site due to the fact that the 10-second window to impact within that range leaves the system without sufficient time to react.

Government officials last month approved a NIS 350 million ($97.3 million) plan to fortify buildings within the 4.5 kilometer distance to Gaza as a way to compensate for the system’s deficiencies.

Barak has begun to re-review two US systems that were previously rejected.

Reuters reports that Pinchas Buchris, a senior aide to the Defense Minister, flew to the US on Sunday to observe the Nautilus anti-rocket system in action, one of the two under consideration.