Israel the past two weeks has been utilizing a secret device to counter the growing threat of mortars and Qassam rockets Hamas regularly launches at the Jewish communities of Gaza – a pilotless drone that identifies and takes out militants and their equipment before they can fire the rockets, senior Israeli security sources told WND.

The Israel Air Force Monday fired three missiles at two teams of Palestinian militants planning a mortar attack in a Gaza refugee camp. Palestinian residents told reporters Israeli drones fired the missiles near where a group of militants was gathering. The IDF only confirmed that missiles destroyed both launchers, but would not reveal which kind of aircraft was used in the operation.

A week earlier, Israel fired missiles at a Hamas crew preparing to launch a Qassam rocket against Neve Dekalim, the main Gaza Jewish community, from the Khan Younes cemetery in the southern Gaza Strip. Again, residents said they saw a drone, and the IDF was silent.

An IDF spokeswoman told WND she “cannot reveal or discuss operational methods or means used in combat.”

But security officials said the recent operations utilized an advanced aerial pilotless drone equipped with precision-guided missiles capable of taking out stationary and moving targets with minimal collateral damage.

The officials wouldn’t identify the exact drone Israel has been using, but said it is a modified version of a model similar to America’s MQ-1 Predator, a system guided by a ground control station that receives several real-time video feeds from sensors located on the drone as well as images from a Predator-linked satellite.

The Israeli drone, which can remain in the air for up to 24 hours, is equipped with a color nose camera, a daytime-applicable TV lens, a variable infrared camera for low light and night, and a synthetic radar for looking through smoke, clouds or haze. The cameras produce full motion video as well as still frame radar images.

America has used the Predator, as well as a more sophisticated system, the American Global Hawk UAV, in Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. used a drone May 8 to kill a wanted al-Qaida operative in North Waziristan.

“Use of this drone should send shivers down the spines of terrorists planning further attacks,” said an Israeli official. “Israel is using it to serve as a deterrent for further attacks. It provides us with constant intelligence in real time from afar, and enables us to respond immediately and forcefully.”

Rannan Gissin, a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told WND: “I can’t talk specifics. The method used is not important, but I can say if Palestinians do not stop attacks, we will have to do it. And we will use methods that will be effective.”

Hamas has been launching almost daily rocket and mortar attacks against the Jewish communities in Gaza slated for evacuation this summer. Analysts have warned the attacks will escalate as the Gaza withdrawal draws closer so Hamas can claim it has driven Israel from the area.

Israel has been reluctant to conduct ground operations inside Gaza in keeping with a cease-fire agreement signed with the Palestinians in February.

“The drone shows we can still operate without being there,” said a security source.

Some worry after the Gaza evacuation, Hamas will use the territory gained to stage rocket attacks deeper inside Israel.

Since February, the Palestinians have smuggled multiple rockets and five anti-aircraft missile batteries into Rafah from across the Egypt-Gaza border, reports Israel’s Center for Special Studies.

Hamas also recently started manufacturing a new rocket, the Nasser 3, capable of reaching further than the currently used Qassam 2 rockets, which, unlike the Nasser, have improvised fuses and warheads that don’t always explode on impact.

“The Nasser 3 brings things to a whole new level of warfare,” a security source previously told WorldNetDaily. “Hamas knows they can’t get inside Israel because of the security fence, and they are setting the stages for a major shift in tactics from suicide bombings to firing effective rockets from Palestinian areas deep inside Israel.”

The IDF has been debating how best to respond to the new rocket threat.

Aside from the drone, as WND first reported, military experts have been developing a “remote control” border with Gaza that includes unmanned sensor patrol cars and computerized observation posts that would automatically spot and kill terrorists.

An army think tank, working with Israel’s high-tech sector, has put together a computerized observation system that will identify “hostile elements” for the IDF, and upon human authorization, will fire deep into Gaza. The system itself will recommend the most appropriate weapon to use to hit a specific target.

The technology was quietly built years ago by Israeli firms and is now in the testing and approval stages.

Said Gissin: “Rockets may be the latest threat, but Israel will neutralize it.”

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