|| Armed Israeli drones hunt Palestinians
Al-Jazeera/ September 15, 2004
Israeli air strikes against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have raised speculation that Israel is arming its surveillance drones with missiles for track-and-kill missions.
Abd Al-Karim Abd Allah, a resident in the West Bank town of Jenin said, "I saw a small plane and then a flash of light, then I heard a huge explosion and a car went up in flames".
Abd Allah was recounting how three Palestinians were slain by Israel while driving through the West Bank city on Monday.
Israel has consistently refused to say whether its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have offensive capabilities.
But mounting testimony from the occupied territories as well as foreign reports show that the country is a leader in this hi-tech field of weaponry.
"The Israelis almost certainly have armed UAV programmes on the go right now," said Robert Hewson, editor of Jane's Air-Launched Weapons. "The UAVs offer an ideal 'closed loop' ... spotting the target and then hitting it from the same platform."
The United States already uses an attack drone, the Predator, one of which rocketed a car in Yemen in November 2002, killing six people.
The six were suspected of being members of al-Qaida.
The advantages of using UAVs for such lightning strikes, analysts say, are obvious. Being propeller-driven and capable of altitudes of up to 10,000 feet ( 3000 metres ), they make none of the giveaway rotor or jet noise of conventional combat aircraft.
Lacking pilots who get tired and with low fuel consumption, UAVs can cruise for hours, their cameras relaying live images to operators on the ground, which allows an almost instant "fire" order once a target is spotted.
The website of Northrop Grumman, an American avionics firm, says it has rigged its Israeli-designed Hunter drone with missiles that are completely silent, coasting out of the sky onto their targets by using glider fins rather than a propulsion system.
Hewson said Israel had its own UAV-fired munitions, adapted from tank shells and rockets. "We are positive Israel has developed specific low-collateral guided weapons for these platforms," he said.
Israeli officials do not discuss the tactics of the state's controversial policy of assassinating Palestinian leaders which has been in force since 2001.
But it insists efforts are made to reduce non-combatant or "collateral" casualties.
Drones were aslo said to have been part of a planned attack by Jewish extremists on Al-Aqsa Mosque, according to Israel's minister of public security, Tzahi Hanegbi.
Three innocent bystanders were injured in Monday's Jenin strike.
Such distinctions are often lost on Palestinians fighting Israeli occupation - or Israel itself - since Middle East peace talks stalled in 2000.
"The Israelis have never cared who they kill," said Mushir al-Masri, a spokesman for the resistance movement, Hamas, in Gaza .
"There is no difference between this or that (Palestinian) blood. All these crimes shall not go unpunished," he added.