What the hell is an Iron Dome? Since violence erupted between Israeli and Palestinian forces on Wednesday, Israel's Defense Forces have enthusiastically boasted of the effectiveness of their Iron Dome missile defense system, which has been picking off rockets headed toward the mainland with impressive regularity.

The Iron Dome isn't a dome in any traditional sense, but an array of three or four automated missile defense units designed to destroy short-range rockets headed toward populated areas. The system, which costs an estimated $50 million per unit, fires interceptors at rockets headed toward cities and ignores those likely to land in unpopulated regions. It works using radar tracking and an on-board computer called the Battle Management and Weapon Control or BMC.

Israel first used the Iron Dome in April of last year, after receiving it from nationally owned defense lab Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The IDF claims that the system has intercepted over 130 rockets fired by militant groups from Gaza just since Wednesday. Historically, the IDF has said Iron Dome operates with a success rate as high as 85 or 90 percent.

“It’s unbelievable, we are very pleased with how Iron Dome has been operating,” a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Force told the Telegraph. “Even if the situation is very difficult for residents of southern Israel, we can only imagine what it would have been like without these defenses.”

Palestinian forces have no such advanced defense system on their side of the conflict. They have been relying on cheaply made rockets to strike at Israel while remaining relatively exposed to retaliation attacks. 24 people have been killed and 270 have been wounded in the violence this week, according to the latest estimates of Palestinian officials.

Watch rockets being intercepted by the Iron Dome in an eerie nighttime video taken from an apparently nonchalant hotel party above. The missiles come into view at 00:50.

(Image via Wikipedia)

(Image via Business Insider)