Israel using combat drones in Gaza incursion

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

GAZA CITY The Israel Air Force is using unmanned combat aerial vehicles in the military operation in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources said.

The sources said Israel used UCAVs to fire air-to-ground missiles at insurgency targets in the Gaza Strip at least twice over the weekend.

The UCAVs were said to have been operated against both Fatah and Hamas targets. At least four Palestinian operatives were killed.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said Israeli UAVs fired missiles toward insurgency targets in the Gaza Strip on Oct. 13 and Oct. 14. The center said that in the first attack three Hamas operatives were killed in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya.

"According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 09:20 on Friday, 13 October 2006, an IOF [Israeli occupation force] drone fired a missile at a civilian car that was traveling in the center of the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia," the group said in a statement on Oct. 15. "The missile hit the car and killed the three passengers."

The center said in the Oct. 14 attack, a member of Fatah's Mujahideen Brigade was killed by two missiles fired by an unidentified Israeli UAV. Another Fatah fighter as well as three others were said to have been injured.

Industry sources said the Israel Air Force has been using UAVs as missile platforms since at least 2004. The sources said the air force converted the Hermes 450 UAV, manufactured by Elbit Systems, into a combat platform.

The air force has not acknowledged the use of UCAVs in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli military statement merely said the "air strike was launched against a vehicle transporting terrorist activists in Gaza City."

The UCAVs were used as part of the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip designed to destroy missile production facilities. The offensive has included an Israeli armor incursion into the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, Jabalya refugee camp and near Rafah in the south.

"Hamas, which is reinforcing itself, constitutes a threat to Israel's security," Amos Gilad, director of the Defense Ministry's political-military division, said, "Our priority is now to make it more and more difficult for the continuation of terrorism."

Copyright 2006 East West Services, Inc.

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