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Congress approves funds for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense

In final days before break, Congress OKs $225 million for Israel's missile defense system
Amid conflict in Gaza Strip, Congress provides Israel with another $225 million for Iron Dome system

Congress on Friday approved $225 million for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, a Pentagon-backed request to shore up the U.S. ally amid continued hostilities in the Gaza Strip.

With little debate, Congress cleared the measure as lawmakers prepared to leave town for the August break.

"Israeli citizens are being bombarded with missile after missile," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who led the effort. She said the anti-missile system was "saving lives and protecting towns and cities."

An earlier attempt to provide the funds faltered amid partisan gridlock over a separate measure to handle the migrant crisis at the Southwestern U.S. border.

But lawmakers from both parties are highly supportive of Israel and were eager to provide the aid.

Israel had requested the funds from the Pentagon, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told congressional leaders last week he supported the additional funds "in light of the ongoing conflict."

More than 2,700 Hamas rockets have been fired into Israel in recent weeks as Israel continues a ground offensive in the Palestinian enclave.

Though nearly 1,500 Palestinians have been killed -- most of them civilians, according to the United Nations -- Israel has lost 63 soldiers and only three civilians thanks largely to the Iron Dome system, which intercepts rockets from Gaza.

"Iron Dome has saved countless Israeli lives," Hagel said in a letter to congressional leaders.

The emergency funds are in addition to requests pending before Congress. The money will be used to accelerate production of components of the Israel-based missile defense system to "maintain adequate stockpiles," the Pentagon said. 

The funding will not be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget, as is often required for bills to win approval in Congress.

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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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