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United States's THAAD missile defence system deployed to Israel

Netanyahu welcomes arrival, saying it makes the military stronger and increases capabilities across the Middle East
An Israeli military spokesman said all of the components of the THAAD system were at an air force base in the Negev desert, in southern Israel (File pic - Reuters)

The US military has deployed its most advanced air and missile defence system to Israel for the first time, American and Israeli military officials have said.

The deployment, which began this month, was intended to test the US military's ability to rapidly deploy such weapons around the world, a spokeswoman for US European Command said on Monday.

Citing security reasons, she declined to say how long it took to move the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system to Israel from its home base of Fort Bliss, Texas, the Reuters news agency reported.

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The move comes amid increased tensions between Israel and Iran over Israel's bombing campaign in Syria and comments in which Iran's foreign minister said he could not rule out the possibility of military conflict between the two countries.

The US military said the decision to rapidly move the THAAD system, which is built by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, to Israel was intended "as a demonstration of the United States' continued commitment to Israel's regional security".

"THAAD is the most advanced integrated air and missile defence system in the world, and this deployment readiness exercise demonstrates that US forces are agile and can respond quickly and unpredictably to any threat, anywhere, at any time," US European Command said.

As part of the deployment, US forces will work at various locations in Europe, the US and in Israel to operate the system in close cooperation with the Israeli army, it said.

Undisclosed site

Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said the deployment differed from previous simulated US-Israel joint military exercises and involved tactical coordination on the ground.

He said all of the components of the THAAD system were at an air force base in the Negev desert, in southern Israel. 

The system will soon be transported to an undisclosed site in southern Israel.

"The advantage from the Israeli point of view is that we have an opportunity to integrate it into our systems and simulate different scenarios," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the THAAD system's arrival, noting it strengthened his country's military firepower.

"The American THAAD system is considered among the most advanced systems in the world, and together with our defence systems, we are stronger in dealing with threats, close or distant, emanating from all areas of the Middle East," he said.