Israel used unmanned drones to track, kill Hamas

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

TEL AVIV Israel's air force has employed unmanned air vehicles for targeting in airborne counter-insurgency operations against Hamas and other groups. For the first time, Tuesday, Israel went public with footage taken during the operation.

In an unusual move, details of the UAV operation were disclosed on Tuesday in wake of five air attacks on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources said 12 people were killed in the strikes on Gaza City and the Nusseirat refugee camp.

The UAV video disputes Palestinian claims that the Apache fired missiles in a crowd of people that surrounded the car. The video showed that one minute elapsed between the first and second missile strike and that the area around the car was empty.

The Searcher UAV has been heavily used in counter-insurgency operations. The UAV, produced by the state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries, is said to provide real-time images to both aircraft as well as ground stations, Middle East Newsline reported.

The air force screened a video from an Israeli AH-64A Apache helicopter missile strike on a carload of suspected Hamas insurgents in Nusseirat. The video was taken by the UAV that provided real-time images of the vehicle entering the camp and monitoring for passersby.

The suspected Hamas car continued to travel after it was struck and for a moment drove out of the UAV's sight. The second missile struck the vehicle and the two insurgents were believed to have been killed. Three people were seen in the area during the second missile strike.

Israeli military sources said between three and five people were killed in the Apache missile attack. They said most of them were Hamas fugitives or colleagues who tried to help them escape.

The air force has used tactical UAVs to track and target insurgents and their strongholds in the Gaza Strip. The UAVs are meant to monitor the movement of Islamic fugitives while keeping fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft out of view.

The sources said no more than 10 Palestinians were killed in Tuesday's air attacks. They said at least seven of them were Hamas insurgents, including suicide bombers who had earlier tried to infiltrate Israel. The Palestinians asserted that 12 people were killed in the Israeli strikes.

Hamas responded to the Israeli air attacks by firing a Kassam-class short-range rocket toward Israel and nine mortars toward Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip. Nobody was injured.

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