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Monday, September 5, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Cable: Israel informed U.S. that combat drone attack in Gaza caused civilian casualties

LONDON — Israel has reported that it was using armed unmanned aerial vehicles in operations in the Gaza Strip.


The State Department was informed of Israel's combat UAV operations in February 2010. A department cable said the Israel Air Force has been using unidentified UAVs to target and kill Hamas and other Palestinian belligerents in the Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported.

"A UAV shot at two Hamas fighters in front of the mosque and 16 unintended casualties resulted inside the mosque due to an open door through which shrapnel entered during a time of prayer," the cable, written by then-U.S. ambassador to Israel, James Cunningham, said.

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The cable, released by WikiLeaks on Sept. 1, reported on Cunningham's meeting with Israeli Maj. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit, the Army's advocate-general. Mandelblit was said to have briefed the U.S. ambassador on Israel's investigation of the war with Hamas in January 2009.

In his briefing, Mandelblit did not identify the Israeli UAV that fired a rocket near the mosque. Palestinian and Western sources, however, said the Israel Air Force has been using the Hermes-450 UAV to fire lighweight rockets at ground targets. Israel has never acknowledged the use of armed UAVs.

"He [Mandelblit] also noted it [mosque] was not on all maps and the UAV controller did not know it was a time of prayer," the cable said.

Mandelblit also reported the military's use of flechette munitions from Israeli main battle tanks. Flechette, a modification of the U.S.-made M494 APERS-T round and deemed legal by international law, was meant to stop infantry troops but was used in the counter-insurgency war against Hamas. The munition disperses 5,000 darts over a 300x94 meter area.

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