Palestinians: Unmanned drone killed 40 last week in Gaza

Thursday, October 7, 2004

GAZA CITY The Israel Air Force successfully tested an unmanned aerial vehicle platform capable of firing missiles or anti-tank munitions at ground targets.

Palestinian sources said the unidentified UAV has been used during the current "Days of Pentinence" military operation in the northern Gaza Strip targeting Hamas operatiaves and others involved in the recent rash of Kassam rocket attacks.

So far, the sources said, the UAV was responsible for the death of 40 Palestinians over the last week. They said the UAV was used to locate and target Palestinian combatants in the Jabalya refugee camp, the focus of Kassam-class short-range missile production.

The sources said the UAV was capable of targeting and destroying moving vehicles.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority-owned Al Hayat Al Jadida published a photograph of the Israeli UAV, dubbed Zanana. The Arabic word was a reference to the buzzing made by the approaching UAV.

About 80 Palestinians have been killed in the military operation, which entered its eight day on Wednesday. An Israeli military statement said that on Tuesday Bashir Dabash, head of Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, was killed by a missile fired from an Israeli aircraft.

The military said more than 50 of the Palestinian casualties in the current operation were Hamas combatants. The United Nations said the casualties included 24 Palestinians up until the age of 14.

The military has not reported the use of a combat UAV in the Gaza Strip. Still, Israeli defense sources have acknowledged that the air force and key contractors have been developing combat UAVs. The sources said the program has included both the development of new platforms as well as the conversion of existing UAVs into those that could deploy munitions.

The Israeli sources did not provide specifics. But they said that the Searcher UAV, regarded as the most active military UAV in the Gaza Strip, was too small to carry or fire munitions.

The U.S. Army, however, has modified the Israeli-origin Hunter UAV to enable the deployment of Brilliant Anti-Tank munitions. The Hunter, the leading army UAV in Iraq, succeeded in BAT tests in 2002.

In 2003, Israel Air Force officers said the service was not conducting similar tests on the Hunter. They said the Hunter was not regarded as a suitable platform for strike operations.

Al Hayat Al Jadida said the Zanana UAV was used to kill Hamas senior operative Wa'el Nassar in August 2004 near Gaza City. The newspaper said the Zanana was capable of firing a missile.

Palestinian sources said the Israeli combat UAV was used to target and attack insurgents in the northern West Bank city of Jenin in July. The sources said the UAV fired what appeared to be a small rocket, but failed to kill the Palestinian insurgents.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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