Counter-drones, warning strikes, and now the Sky Spotter UAV comprise the IDF’s growing arsenal to combat airborne arson attacks by Palestinians in Gaza.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The Sky Spotter is the IDF’s newest tool for countering the Palestinian kite and balloon assaults from the sky that have burned down thousands of acres of fields and forests in Israel over the last several weeks causing millions of shekels of damage.
Hadashot TV News reported Thursday that the system, built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, has been in operation along the Gaza border for several days already. Based on electro-optic technology, it can spot the helium balloons and kites that have flammable materials attached to them and track their flight path.
Then it directs firefighters to where they land so that the flames can be extinguished more quickly and limit the damage caused. Sky Spotter can also guide automated drones to crash into kites and balloons before they land.
A laser system that could make the kites and balloons burn up in mid-air is also being tested, according to the report, and is expected to go into use soon.
These devices are a high-tech step up from the methods used so far by the army, which included fitting surveillance drones with weighted fishing lines or blades that can snag or slash kite strings in mid-air, and drafting civilian drone enthusiasts as army reservists to fly their own remote-controlled toys into the airborne terror toys (and compensating them if their property gets lost in the process).
Hundreds of these children’s toys-turned-incendiary weapons have caused over 400 fires that have burned more than 6100 acres of land in the last two months, as the dry winter and summer heat combine to make it far too easy for fires to start and spread quickly. Thousands of acres of forest land and agricultural fields have been destroyed in this fashion, and only by miracle have there been no injuries to people, as the unguided kites and balloons have also landed in Israeli villages.
Several ministers have declared recently that the people releasing these airborne assaults no less terrorists those who use conventional weaponry, and should be treated as such by the IDF.
“An explosive balloon or a burning kite must be treated like Kassam [rocket] fire,” Education Minister Naftali Bennet has said. “We must stop shooting next to it and start shooting directly at the target.”
And in Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s words, “I expect the IDF to handle these kite-flyers exactly as they would any terrorist, and the IDF’s targeted assassinations must also apply to these kite-flyers.”
Preventing or mitigating such attacks through successful use of the Sky Spotter and other non-lethal high-tech tools could save the Jewish state from more censure from the international community, which vilifies Israel for defending itself against attacks launched via the Hamas terror group’s “March of Return,” an operation that relies heavily on humans shields in attempts to breach Israel’s border with Gaza.