Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Remote-Control Killers

Aharon Granot

The IDF’s use of drones for surveillance and intelligence — and, according to foreign reports, for targeted killings — has created new rules in this war-torn region, as seen in president Obama's recent disclosure that four US citizens (and radical Muslims) were killed in targeted strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. One day, war might be waged by remote control, but while a bomb can be detonated by a radio signal, those on the receiving end of the blast still pay with their lives.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

planesJanuary 2009.

Several unmanned aircraft take off from the Palmachim air force base, while another drone is launched from the base at Tel Nof. A team of operators sits in the control room as real-time images are transmitted to the “pit,” the air force command center. The objective: to liquidate a convoy transporting weapons from an Iranian military warehouse inSudanto the Gaza Strip.

Six hours later, a convoy of 23 trucks carrying 20 tons of arms and explosives, including antitank rockets and Iranian Fajr missiles, leaves the harbor inPort Sudan, headed toward the poorly guarded Egyptian border. It’s the height of Operation Cast Lead — the three-week Israeli assault on Gaza’s terror bases and missile-launching centers — and the Mossad has been tipped off that Iran organized a huge weapons delivery to Gaza via Port Sudan, through the southern Egyptian border and then up into Gaza, through the dozens of remaining weapons-smuggling tunnels that Israel had not yet destroyed.

As the convoy makes its way from the port through the Sudanese desert with its lethal loot, Israeli F-16 fighter-bombers take out the lead trucks, turning them into a massive ball of fire. Drones mounted with high-resolution cameras pass over the burning trucks, but the video shows that the convoy had only been partially damaged. While operators watch from the “pit,” a second round with the F-16s finishes the job. The survivors flee into the desert; 39 bodies are left behind, and the planes are summoned home. During the 1,750-mile flight toSudanand back, the Israeli aircraft refuel in midair over theRed Sea.

It would take another two months before the world learned about the thwarted weapons-smuggling scheme and the beginning of a new era in Israel’s air-to-land warfare — the use of unmanned aircraft for both surveillance and combat purposes.

Today, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) make up a quarter of the Israeli Air Force fleet, butIsraelisn’t the only player in theMiddle Eastto fly pilotless planes over enemy airspace. While the IDF’s unmanned planes are the most sophisticated in the world, Hizbullah inLebanonis known to maintain a squadron of drones, one of which was shot down by the IDF last month off the shores ofHaifa. During Operation Pillar of Defense, the IDF bombed a number of sites where Hizbullah — with the help ofIran— had been testing unmanned aircraft.

AndIsraelisn’t the only country to use drones for air strikes. Between 2004 and 2012 the US Air Force initiated 411 drone attacks acrossPakistan,Yemen, andSomalia, resulting in 3,430 casualties; 401 were civilians. ForIsrael, though, drones have become the first line of defense in its own backyard. The IDF’s drones are used to pinpoint and liquidate Palestinian terror operatives as part ofIsrael’s program of targeted assassinations, although the IDF officially claims that unmanned aircraft are used by the air force “for purposes of intelligence and surveillance.”


 To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha. To sign up for a weekly subscription click here.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Arrogance Rewarded
Yonoson Rosenblum At Oberlin, victim status gives you privilege to pilfer
Hit or Miss?
Eytan Kobre Why are American Jews so intrigued by Shtisel?
Going Broke: The conversation continues, part 3
Mishpacha Readers "She should work on her confidence, not her wardrobe"
Work/Life Solutions with Ilan Regenbaum
Moe Mernick "Invest yourself fully into whatever you do"
Calling a Tail a Leg
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman It is not quite “an opportunity to use lifeboats”
Playing Defense
Baruch S. Fertel, MD, MPA, FACEP Trust your doctor. But only believe in Hashem
What Are You Playing Tonight?
Riki Goldstein "Hits are determined by the klal, not by producers"
The First Door to Open
Riki Goldstein “I would have taken that job for literally any price”
Leap of Faith
Faigy Peritzman The type of bitachon that’s expected of us
The Violent Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Ignore a child’s explosive temper? Not necessarily
Oasis in Time All’s Good at Shalosh Seudos
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz At Shalosh Seudos, our focus is on yichud with Hashem
Dear Kallah Teacher
Anonymous I wish I'd been told this wasn't normal