TEL AVIV Ñ Israel's military has deployed a balloon with advanced
sensors to detect and track launches of the Kassam-class short-range
The tethered balloon has been flying several hundred meters over a
command post just east of the Gaza Strip. The balloon was launched in July
and meant to detect Kassam launches from the central and northern Gaza Strip
Military sources said the balloon has been employed in the current
Israeli military operation to track and destroy Kassam insurgency squads in
the northern and central Gaza Strip. On Thursday, Israel's military expanded
a three-pronged offensive against Hamas gunners who have been firing
missiles and mortars toward Israeli communities, Middle East Newsline reported.
The military weekly, Bamahane, reported that the balloon was loaded with
advanced sensors, cameras and transmitters. The magazine said the platform
relays images of a wide area of the Gaza Strip to a command and control
The balloon was developed by Rafael, Israel Armament Development
Authority and was said to cost $2 billion. Rafael has developed a similar
balloon for use in northern Israel to track the movement of Hizbullah.
Since 2001, more than 500 Kassam missiles were fired toward Israel. The
most advanced version of the Kassam has a range of more than 12 kilometers.
"The balloon is necessary for finding the Kassams," an intelligence
officer identified only as Lt. Col. Yossi said. "It provides an enhanced
observation over the area."
Military sources said the balloon's sensors would help pinpoint the exact
location of the portable rocket launchers. Most of the launches have taken
place north of Gaza City.