By Jennifer Rizzo
The United States will provide an additional $70 million to support Israel's short-range missile defense system, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday.
Panetta issued a statement saying he was directed by President Barack Obama to fill Israel's request for the cash needed to run the Iron Dome system.
The United States has already provided Israel with $205 million for the system, in addition to the roughly $3 billion given to Israel annually for security assistance. The Defense Department plans to request extra funding for Iron Dome over the next three years. An exact figure of additional assistance was not given.
Israel's Iron Dome is a portable anti-rocket system built to take down short-range missiles. First deployed in April 2011, the system targets incoming rockets it identifies as possible threats to city centers and fires an interceptor missile to destroy them in the air.
In March, Iron Dome was responsible for taking down 80% of the several hundred rockets directed toward Israel, Pentagon spokesman George Little said at a Thursday news conference.
"It's a proven system," Little said. "Missile defense is important to Israel and we're committed to supporting the Israelis."
The announcement came after a meeting at the Pentagon between Panetta and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.