Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

IDF targets Hamas positions after rockets fired from Gaza at southern Israel


JERUSALEM – Israel’s military targeted two Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip hours after two rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel.

One of the rockets fired on Saturday landed near the southern Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon and the second appeared to fall in Gazan territory. The launches triggered the Code Red rocket alarm system.

No injuries or damage was reported in the attack on Israel. No casualties were reported in Israel’s strike on the Hamas targets later on Saturday.

On Sunday morning the Code Red alarm system sounded in several Gaza border communities. The IDF said it was a false alarm.

Rocket fired from Gaza lands near kibbutz


A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in an open area near a kibbutz in southern Israel not far from the Gaza border.
 
No injuries or damages were reported from the rocket, which landed on Tuesday night, setting off alarms in several Israeli towns near northern Gaza, the Times of Israel reported.
 
The attack follows several similar ones from Gaza in the past month, which are believed to have been fired by Islamic rivals of Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group that governs Gaza. Israel has said it holds Hamas responsible for all attacks originating in Gaza.
 
The rocket comes a day after the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a report accusing both Israel and Hamas of possible war crimes in their Gaza war last summer.

Rockets fired from Gaza at southern Israel


Three rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza, police said on Wednesday, after warning sirens were heard in Israeli towns near the border.

There were no casualties, police said. No militant groups in Gaza issued any claims of responsibility.

A week ago Gaza militants launched their deepest strike at Israel since a 50-day war of last summer, striking near the port city of Ashdod.

Israeli warplanes launched strikes in response at four targets and then the tensions subsided. Israel blamed Islamic Jihad militants for that attack and media reports said Hamas Islamists who dominate in Gaza had arrested militants behind that strike.

The latest rocket strike follows a Gaza shootout on Tuesday in which Hamas security forces killed an activist of a rival Islamist militant group.

Witnesses said the slain man in Gaza was active with a Salafist group, radicals supportive of struggles being led in the region by Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

Police say one rocket fired from Gaza Strip towards Israel


This is a breaking news story. Check back for details.

UPDATE 12:19 p.m.: Israeli police said one rocket launched from the Gaza Strip landed in Israel on Tuesday and no damage or injuries were reported.

Earlier reports by Israeli media said five rockets had been fired but it was later found that electronic sensors watching for firings may have given false readings.

No group in the Gaza Strip had immediately taken responsibility for the firing. Israeli media speculated that it may have been an errant rocket that was not intentionally aimed at Israeli territory.


UPDATE 11:37 a.m.: Air raid sirens sounded on Tuesday night after at least one rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel, Israeli television news reports said. Israeli police have now confirmed this report.

There were no reports of damage or injuries. The remnants of one rocket were found near the port city of Ashdod, about 20 km north of the Gaza Strip, an ambulance service spokesman said.
No group in the Gaza Strip had immediately taken responsibility for the firing. Israeli media speculated that it may have been an errant rocket that was not intentionally aimed at Israeli territory.


UPDATE 11:33 a.m.: At least one rocket fired from Gaza Strip land in Southern Israel – Israeli Channel 10 TV originally said five rockets.


Five rockets fired from Gaza Strip land in Southern Israel, Israeli Channel 10 TV says

NASA’s unmanned Antares rocket explodes on launch


An unmanned Antares rocket exploded seconds after lift off from a commercial launch pad in Virginia on Tuesday, a NASA TV broadcast showed.

The 14-story rocket, built and launched by Orbital Sciences Corp, bolted off its seaside launch pad at the Wallops Flight Facility at 6:22 p.m. EDT/2222 GMT. It exploded seconds later. The cause of the accident was not immediately available.

Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Sandra Maler

Rocket from Gaza strikes Tel Aviv area, Israeli military says


A rocket fired from Gaza struck as far as the Tel Aviv area on Tuesday, the Israeli military said, in the deepest rocket attack since a truce calmed fighting about 10 days ago.

Hamas's armed wing claimed responsibility for the rocket, which Israel said landed in an open area, causing no casualties. It was fired after Israel's first lethal air strike since the breakdown of a truce earlier in the day that killed three people and wounded 40.

Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; editing by Ralph Boulton

BREAKING: Israeli police confirm rocket fired from Gaza landed in Southern Israel


Rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel two hours before the deadline of a 72-hour cease-fire between Hamas and Israel.

One rocket exploded Wednesday night in an unpopulated area of the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council, The Jerusalem Post reported. No damage or injuries were reported. Rocket sirens sounded in Ashkelon and surrounding areas.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army massed more troops along the Gaza border on Wednesday as the midnight deadline neared for the end of the temporary truce.

A news conference expected to be held by the Palestinian delegation to truce talks in Cairo at 9:30 p.m. reportedly was delayed until further notice.

Earlier Wednesday, the United States said it wanted a long-term cease-fire secured between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, but would settle for extending the temporary truce launched at midnight Monday if negotiators in the Egyptian capital cannot reach a larger accord by the deadline.

President Obama spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu by phone on Wednesday, urging Netanyahu to reach an agreement that would end the violence.

According to Israel’s Channel 2, the Israeli team returned home from the indirect negotiations in Cairo.

Renewed Israel, Palestinian truce off to shaky start


Israel and the Palestinians renewed a truce that had largely tempered a five-week-old war, but the deal got off to a shaky start on Thursday with rockets from Gaza slamming into Israel and Israel retaliating with air strikes.

Hamas, which denied involvement in firing some of what Israel counted as eight rockets shot just as an earlier truce expired on Wednesday, and accused the Jewish state of violating the new truce by launching air strikes.

There were no reported casualties in any of the incidents that marred an Egyptian-brokered agreement announced in Cairo to extend a ceasefire begun on Monday by another five days, or until Aug. 19.

Israel had no comment on the deal the Palestinians announced in Cairo. Egyptian mediators had won the deal to extend a ceasefire when the sides were clearly headed toward failure to bridge key differences in time for a midnight deadline.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Israeli forces to fire rocks in response to what he called a breach of the ceasefire by Hamas.

Hamas official Izzat Reshiq denied the Palestinians had breached the truce, and denounced Israel's air strikes as “a violation of the calm.”

The Israeli military said its air strikes were “targeting terror sites across the Gaza Strip,” and these attacks were followed by two more rocket attacks at Israel from Gaza.

In announcing the truce extension on Wednesday, Azzam Al-Ahmed, the head Palestinian negotiator in Egypt, a member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's mainstream Fatah faction said on Wednesday evening in Cairo that “it was agreed to extend ceasefire by five days.”

The extension was intended to give the sides more time to reach a more lasting deal after they had failed to bridge differences over an Egyptian proposal for a permanent truce that addressed a key Palestinian demand to lift the Israeli and Egyptian blockades of the Gaza Strip.

It was unclear how Israel's and Egypt's security concerns about Islamist Hamas, the dominant force in Gaza, were addressed by Egypt's new proposal, or how it could be reconciled with Israel's demand for Gaza's demilitarization.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told Al-Aqsa Hamas television on Wednesday that the group would insist on “lifting the Gaza blockade” and reducing movement restrictions on the territory's 1.8 million residents, as a prerequisite to a “permanent calm”.

STEPS TO EASE BLOCKADE

Egyptian and Palestinian sources said Israel had tentatively agreed to allow some supplies into the Gaza Strip and relax curbs on the cross-border movement of people and goods, subject to certain conditions.

A Palestinian demand for a Gaza seaport and reconstruction of an airport destroyed in previous conflicts with Israel has also been a stumbling block, with the Jewish state citing security reasons for opposing their operation.

The sides have agreed to delay discussion of any agreement on the ports for a month, a Palestinian official said.

As part of the Egyptian blueprint, Israel was expected to expand fishing limits it imposes on Gaza fishermen to 6 miles (10 km) from the usual 3-mile offshore zone.

“It will increase gradually to no less than 12 miles in coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel,” the official said, referring to a likely expanded role in Gaza affairs for the government of Western-backed Abbas, based in areas of the West Bank.

In addition, the official said, the Egyptian plan calls for reducing the size of a “no-go” area for Palestinians on the Gaza side of the border from 300 meters (328 yards) to 100 meters so that local farmers can recover plots lost during security crackdowns.

Israel and Hamas have not met face-to-face in Cairo: Israel regards Hamas, which advocates its destruction, as a terrorist group. But the official said once they inform Egypt of their agreement, a ceasefire accord could be signed the same day.

The Gaza hostilities have killed 1,945 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and 67 on the Israeli side. Most of the Palestinian dead have been civilians, hospital officials in the small, densely populated enclave say.

Israel launched its military campaign on July 8 to quell cross-border rocket fire from Gaza

The heavy losses among civilians and the destruction of thousands of homes in Gaza – where the United Nations said 425,000 of a population of 1.8 million have been displaced by the war – have stoked international alarm.

Israel pulled ground forces out of Gaza last week after it said the army had completed its main mission of destroying more than 30 tunnels dug by militants for cross-border ambushes. It now wants guarantees Hamas will not use any reconstruction supplies sent into the enclave to rebuild the tunnels.

Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Lin Noueihed in Cairo; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Ken Wills

Rockets Launched Behind Journalist During Gaza Coverage


While reporting live from Gaza, Hamas recklessly fires a rocket behind a France 24 journalist.

U.S. government believes Malaysia jet hit by surface-to-air missile


A U.S. official said the United States believes a surface-to-air missile brought down the Malaysian airliner that crashed on Thursday in eastern Ukraine, killing all 295 people aboard.

The U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the origin of the missile was unclear. The official declined further comment.

Ukraine accused “terrorists” – militants fighting to unite eastern Ukraine with Russia – of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with a heavy Soviet-era SA-11 ground-to-air missile as the plane flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Leaders of the rebel Donetsk People's Republic denied any involvement.

Reporting by Phil Stewart; Writing by Jason Szep; Editing by Bill Trott

Hamas says it fired rocket toward Haifa


Hamas said it fired a rocket at the city of Haifa, northern Israel, on Tuesday in what would be the longest-range such Palestinian attack from the Gaza Strip.

There was no immediate word of any impact in Haifa, on the Mediterranean coast 88 miles from Gaza. A Haifa resident said he had heard no sirens in the city.

The announcement came shortly after air raid sirens sounded in nearby Binyamina in what Israeli media subsequently said may have been a false alarm.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Israel attacks Gaza sites in response to rocket, bomb attacks


Israel’s Air Force bombed three sites in Gaza in response to attacks from Palestinians in the coastal strip.

Two sites in southern Gaza and one in central Gaza identified by the Israel Defense Forces as “terror activity sites” were targeted Monday “in response to the latest severe aggression emanating from Gaza,” the IDF said in a statement.

Seven rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel on Monday. One rocket caused damage to a road and several stores in Sderot, according to reports.

On Sunday evening, a bomb planted near the border fence with Gaza was exploded against an IDF patrol. On Monday morning, an anti-tank missile was fired from Gaza at an IDF patrol. The attacks did not cause any injuries, according to the IDF.

“One our holiday today, our enemies fired missiles at our communities and our policy is clear – to respond quickly and strongly. We strike at whoever comes to attack us,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday night.

Since the beginning of 2014, 100 rockets fired from Gaza have hit southern Israel.

Gaza rockets hit south Israel, army strikes back


Seven rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel during the Jewish Passover holiday on Monday, drawing retaliatory air strikes from the Israeli army, officials said, the first cross-border clash in several weeks.

Israel's army said its strikes hit two training camps run by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls Gaza. Medical sources there said two Hamas militants were lightly wounded.

Hamas has largely maintained a truce with Israel since a brief war in late 2012, but it has sometimes struggled to rein in smaller armed Islamist factions hostile to the Israel.

There was no claim of responsibility for the latest rocket salvo from any of those factions, who are opposed to troubled peace talks between their Palestinian rivals in the West Bank and Israel.

Two of the projectiles from Gaza exploded in the southern Israeli border community of Sderot in a road and an open area, Israeli police said. There were no reports of any injuries.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for any rocket fire from the Strip and routinely retaliates against it.

“Israeli civilians celebrating the Passover Holiday woke up this morning to the sound of Code-Red alarms and rockets … Hamas rocket terrorism is an intolerable reality Israelis should not have to accept,” Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner said in a statement.

Residents of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza said an Israeli helicopter opened fire there, though it was not clear what it was targeting. Hamas confirmed its training camps had been attacked but did not comment on the reports of rockets.

Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Two Islamist groups fired rockets at Israel over several days in early March, and Israel responded with air strikes.

Reporting By Noah Browning and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Andrew Heavens

Rocket fired from Gaza hits southern Israel


A rocket fired from Gaza exploded in an open area in southern Israel; no injuries or damage were reported.

The attack Monday came several hours before the scheduled release by Israel of 26 Palestinian prisoners — part of the diplomatic process agreed upon by Israel at the resumption of U.S.-backed negotiations with the Palestinians.

Monday’s rocket attack is the third instance of rocket fire from Gaza in less than a week. The Israeli military launched retaliatory strikes following last week’s rocket attacks on Israel’s south.  The Israel Defense Forces also deployed additional Iron Dome anti-missile defense  batteries to the area.

On Sunday, five Katyusha rockets were fired from Lebanon on northern Israel. Two of the rockets landed near Kiryat Shmona.

Retaliating Israel targets Gaza rocket launchers


The Israeli Air Force targeted two concealed rocket launchers in northern Gaza hours after a mortar attack from the coastal strip.

A statement Thursday from the Israel Defense Forces did not say if the launchers were destroyed by its aircraft.

On Thursday morning, Palestinians fired two mortars from central Gaza into Israel, the IDF said. The mortars were aiming for Israeli soldiers patroling the border area, according to Ynet.

“Launching rockets against Israel and its civilians is a breach of our sovereignty,” said IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. “We maintain the right to operate against those who are involved in terror.”

The mortar fire occurred on the first anniversary of Pillar of Defense, the Israeli army operation in Gaza launched to stop frequent rocket strikes on southern Israel.

The Torah of drones: Examining the complex morality of drone warfare


In 2009, an Israeli drone flying over the Gaza Strip transmitted back to its command station an image of a telltale rocket trail streaking toward Israeli territory. Many kilometers away, a young Israeli operator, Capt. Y, quickly maneuvered the unmanned aircraft to get a look at the young Palestinian who had just launched the deadly missile. Y’s drone squadron already had authorization to take him out. In an instant, a rocket struck the hidden launch site, followed by a flash of fire.

When the smoke cleared, Y saw images of the shooter lying flat on the ground. Twenty seconds passed. And then Y saw something even more remarkable — the dead man began to move.

Severely wounded, the Palestinian began to claw his way toward the road. Y could clearly see the man’s face, and in his youth and determination Y must have recognized something of himself. So, now Y and his team had a decision to make: Would they let the wounded terrorist escape, or circle the drone back and finish him off?

Y told me this story in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. He is 23, wiry and intense. When I arrived for our interview, arranged through the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Y was sitting in a small atrium, getting in a last smoke.

For security reasons, I cannot use his real name, so I agreed to refer to the captain as Y, and to his fellow drone operator, a lieutenant, as M.

M is calmer. She is 25, has large blue eyes and wears her blond hair pulled back into a ponytail — Scarlett Johansson’s tougher twin sister.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, as drones are otherwise known, have been in use militarily since World War I. In 1917, the Americans designed the Kettering “Bug” with a preset gyroscope to guide it into enemy trenches. In World War II, the Nazis deployed “the Fritz,” a 2,300-pound bomb with four small wings and a tail motor. But it is only in the past few years that UAVs have made almost-daily headlines. These days, the United States, in particular, has widely employed UAVs in the far reaches of Pakistan and Afghanistan in its fight against terrorists. As recently as Nov. 1, a U.S. drone strike killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, demonstrating once again the deadly effectiveness of, and the growing reliance upon, these weapons of war.

But like all revolutionary new weapons, this success comes at a price, and it’s a price we in America prefer not to check. Just a day before I met with the two Israelis in late October, two influential human rights groups released reports asserting that the number of civilian deaths resulting from America’s largely secret “drone wars” was far greater than the government had claimed. Human Rights Watch reported that since 2009, America’s anti-terrorist drone strikes in Yemen had killed at least 57 civilians — more than two-thirds of all casualties resulting from the strikes — including a pregnant woman and three children. In Pakistan, Amnesty International found that more than 30 civilians had died from U.S. drone strikes between May 2012 and July 2013 in the territory of North Waziristan.

To Americans, news of anonymous civilians dying in faraway places may not resonate deeply, even if we are the ones who killed them. But these two humanitarian groups’ reports point to the rapid increase in the United States’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles as weapons of war, and they underline the lack of clear international ethical codes to guide that use.

Who gets to use drones? How do commanders decide whom to target, whom to spy on? If a drone operator sitting in a command room in Tampa, Fla., can kill a combatant in Swat, in northern Pakistan, does that make downtown Tampa a legitimate military target, as well?

I wanted to learn more about the morality of this advancing technology, so I talked to people who have studied drones, who have thought about their ethical implications, and who, like Y and M, actually use them. I hoped that through them I might come to understand how we, as a society, should think about the right way to use these remarkable, fearsome tools. 

I wanted to know if there exists, in essence, a Torah of drones.

From 12,000 feet up, the Heron drone Capt. Y was piloting that day during Operation Pillar of Defense offered a perfect view of the wounded Palestinian.

“You see everything,” Y told me. “You could see him lying on the ground, moving and crawling. Even if you know he’s the enemy, it’s very hard to see that. You see a human being who is helpless. You have to bear in mind, ‘He’s trying to kill me.’ But, in my mind, I hoped somebody would go help him.”

Y’s father is French, and his mother is Israeli. He lives in Beersheba, where his wife is a medical student. Y’s brother was killed in the Second Lebanon War by a Hezbollah rocket while he was piloting a Yasur combat helicopter. Y was 18 at the time.

“I believe some of the way to mourn is to go through the same experience of the man you loved,” Y said.

Lt. M’s parents both are French immigrants to Israel, staunch Zionists, and, she said, she always knew one day she’d be an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer.

In Israel, those who cannot complete pilot-training very often enter the drone corps. It may not hold the cachet of becoming an Air Force pilot, but both of these soldiers believe drones are the future.

“I like the idea that every flight you do, you’re helping your fellow citizens,” M said.

“We feel we contribute more than other people,” Y said. “But today, in the modern day, you don’t have to take risks. If you risk your life, it doesn’t mean you contribute more.”

In the United States and Israel, where the reluctance to put boots on the ground is at a high point, the fact that drones offer significant military capabilities with far less risk accounts precisely for the tremendous increase in their use.

Israel, in fact, has led the way. Its effective use of drones during the 1982 Lebanon War rekindled American interest in UAVs. During America’s first Gulf War, in 1991, the U.S. Navy bought a secondhand Pioneer drone from Israel and used it to better aim heavy artillery. At one point during that war, a squad of Iraqi soldiers saw a drone overhead and, expecting to be bombarded, waved a white sheet. It was the first time in history soldiers had surrendered to a drone.

Today, the United States increasingly uses drones for both civilian intelligence — as in Yemen and Pakistan — and militarily. Currently, some 8,000 UAVs are in use by the U.S. military. In the next decade, U.S. defense spending on drones is expected to reach $40 billion, increasing inventory by 35 percent. Since 2002, 400 drone strikes have been conducted by U.S. civilian intelligence agencies. 

At least 87 other countries also have drones. Earlier this year, Israel announced it was decommissioning two of its combat helicopter squadrons — to replace them with drones.

“We’re at the very start of this technological revolution,” Peter Singer, author of “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century,” told me by phone. “We’re in the World War I period of robotics. The cat’s out of the bag. You’re not going to roll it back. But you do want to set norms.”

Singer’s book, first published in 2009 when the public debate over drone ethics was nonexistent, is still the best road map to a future we all have reason to fear, but must face, in any case.

I called Singer to see where he stands on the ethical issues raised by civilian drone deaths.

Actually, he pointed out, his book dealt largely with military use of these technologies. Even he wouldn’t have predicted such widespread use of drones by surveillance agencies that are unversed in the rules of war and that operate without the safeguards built into military actions.

That, for Singer and others who parse the ethics of drones, is the rub. In the military, there are rules of engagement. There is the risk of court-martial. Strategic training is better in the military than in intelligence agencies.

“One group goes to war college,” Singer said, “the other doesn’t. And it’s very different when you’re a political appointee, rather than a military officer. Some tactics would not be allowed in a military operation.”

I asked Singer for an example. He chose one from the CIA operations just now under scrutiny by human rights groups.

“Double-tapping,” he said. “That would never make its way past a military officer.”

Double-tapping is when an aircraft, manned or not, circles back over a targeted site and strikes a second time — either to finish off the wounded or to take out forces that have rushed in to help. Exactly the ethical question Capt. Y. faced.

When Y saw that he hadn’t killed the Palestinian the first time, he and his team faced one of the most difficult, urgent questions of drone combat: Should they double-tap?

Ethical issues in drone combat come up all the time, M said — in training, in operations and, afterward, in frequent debriefing and analysis.

“I have so many examples of that, I can’t count,” Y told me.

A landmark Israeli Supreme Court decision on targeted killing provides the ethical framework for IDF drone operators.

In 2009, the court found there is nothing inherently wrong with a targeted killing — whether by an F-16, Apache helicopter or unmanned drone.

But, the court added, in order for the action to be acceptable, the soldiers must satisfy three questions:

The first is, what is a legitimate target? The target, the court said, must be an operational combatant seeking to do you harm — not a retired terrorist or someone you want to punish for past sins.

Second, has the target met the threshold level of intelligence? The drone team must have a deep knowledge that its target meets the first condition, verified by more than one source.

Finally, who is the supervising body? There must be independent oversight outside the hands of the drone operators and the IDF.

To professor Moshe Halbertal, these three conditions form the basis for the moral exercise of deadly drone force.

Halbertal is a professor of Jewish philosophy at Hebrew University, the Gruss Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law and one of the drafters of the IDF’s code of ethics.

Shortly before Halbertal came to Los Angeles to serve as scholar-in-residence Nov. 1-3 at Sinai Temple, I spoke with him about Israel’s experience with drones. From what he could tell, he said, Israel has a more developed ethical framework.

In the American attacks, Halbertal said, “The level of collateral damage is alarming.”

In Israel, he said, “There is a genuine attempt to reduce collateral killing. If this were the level of collateral damage the IDF produces, it would be very bad.”

The fact that drones are less risky is not what makes their use more prone to excesses, Halbertal said.

“Because military operations involve more risk, there is more care in applying them,” Halbertal said. “But, on the other hand, soldiers make mistakes out of fear in the heat of combat that drone operators don’t.”

The danger with drones, he said, is that because the political risks of deploying them, versus deploying live troops, are much less, they can be used more wantonly.

I asked Capt. Y if he’d had experience with collateral damage.

“It’s happened to me,” he said. “We had a target and asked [intelligence officers] if there were civilians in the area. We received a negative. Later, we heard in the Palestinian press that there were casualties. We checked, and it was true — a father and his 17-year-old son. What can we do? I didn’t have a particular emotion about it.”

The people who know the people getting killed do have emotions about it. And that grief and anger can work to undo whatever benefits drone kills confer.

“I say every drone attack kills one terrorist and creates two,” Adnan Rashid, a Pakistani journalist, told me. In the Swat Valley, where he lives, the fear of American drones and the innocent lives they’ve taken has been one of the extremists’ best recruiting tools, Rashid said.

If that’s the case, better oversight and clearer rules for drones may be not just the right thing to do but in our self-interest as well.

No war is ever clean. But that doesn’t mean drone use should increase without the implementation of the kind of national, and international, norms Singer now finds lacking.

If the United States doesn’t adopt the kinds of oversight Israel already has in place, at the very least, Singer believes, we should move the drone program from the intelligence agencies to the military. 

It’s a call that has increasingly vocal support from America to Pakistan. Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as well as the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, argued Congress could exercise better oversight of a drone program operated by the military.

 “Since when is the intelligence agency supposed to be an Air Force of drones that goes around killing people?” McCain said recently on Fox News. “I believe that it’s a job for the Department of Defense.”

Pakistani protesters from United Citizen Action shout anti-U.S. slogans during a protest against the Nov. 1 killing of Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike. Photo by S.S. Mirza/AFP Photo/Newscom

 “The killing is creating more anger and resulting in the recruitment of more people to pursue revenge,” former Pakistani Minister of State Shahzad Waseem told me. “The minimum you can do is to come up openly with some kind of treaty or set of rules to give it a legal shape, mutually accepted by all sides.” 

Will Americans rise up to make a stink over this? That may be a tall order for a populace that seems to take each revelation of intelligence community overreach — from drone deaths to National Security Agency spying — with a collective yawn. Will the international community begin to create a framework that at least sets standards for drone use and misuse? 

Unfortunately, humans, particularly in developing technology, have a way of advancing faster on the battlefront than on the legal or moral fronts. It took the Holocaust, Singer pointed out, for humanity to come up with the Geneva Conventions of 1949. What fresh hell must befall us before we at least attempt to codify behavior for the Age of Drones?

And even if we set standards and nations abide by them, it seems inevitable that the very nature of drones one day will allow non-state actors — the likes of al-Qaeda — to follow the lead of Hezbollah in using them, as well.

If, in the 1940s and ’50s, the best and the brightest scientific minds went into nuclear physics — and gave us the atomic bomb — these days, those talents are all going toward artificial intelligence. At the high end, a future filled with autonomous, intelligent killing drones awaits us.

At the low end, consider this: Singer also serves as a consultant for the video game “Call of Duty,” for which he was asked to envision a homemade drone of the not-too-distant future. He and others came up with a Sharper Image toy helicopter, controlled by an iPad and mounted with an Uzi. A promotional team actually made a fully functional version of this weapon for a YouTube video, and 17 million hits later, the Defense Department telephoned, perturbed.

“Unlike battleships or atomic bombs,” Singer told me, “the barriers to entry for drones are really low.”

That doesn’t mean we should give up on establishing ethical norms for nations — or people — but we do need to keep our expectations in check.

We may be heading toward a world of what Halbertal describes, in the Israeli context, as “micro wars,” where each human is empowered with military-like capacity and must make his or her own ethical choices on the spot.

Cap. Y made his own moral choice that day during Operation Pillar of Defense. He watched as the wounded Palestinian man managed to get to the road, where a group of civilians came to his aid.

Why didn’t Y “double-tap”?

 “He was no longer a threat,” Y told me, matter-of-factly. “And several people gathered around him who weren’t part of the attack.” That was that: The rules of engagement were clear.

In a micro-war, a soldier in combat — not just generals at a central command — must determine in the heat of battle who is a terrorist and who is a civilian, who shall live and who shall die.

In his book, Singer envisions a future in which artificial intelligence will also enable us to provide ethical decision-making to the machines we create. It would be our job to program Torah into these machines — and then let them do with it as they will.

Much like Someone has done with us.

Grenades fired in Cairo, troops killed near Suez Canal after protesters die


Suspected militants killed six Egyptian soldiers near the Suez Canal and fired rocket-propelled grenades at a state satellite station in Cairo on Monday, suggesting an Islamist insurgency was gathering pace three months after an army takeover.

Dozens of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed in clashes with security forces and political opponents on Sunday, one of the bloodiest days since the military deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July.

The death toll from that day's violence across the country rose to 53, state media said, with 271 people wounded.

The Brotherhood denies the military's charges that it incites violence and says it has nothing to do with militant activity, but further confrontations may shake Egypt this week, with Mursi's supporters calling protests for Tuesday and Friday.

They are likely to be angered by the publication of an interview with Egypt's army chief on Monday in which he said he told Mursi as long ago as February he had failed as president.

Sunday's clashes took place on the anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel — meant to have been a day of national celebration. The countries signed a peace agreement in 1979.

Authorities had warned that anyone protesting against the army during the anniversary would be regarded as an agent of foreign powers, not an activist – a hardening of language that suggested authorities would take a tougher line.

The Muslim Brotherhood accused the army of staging a coup and working with security forces to eliminate the group through violence and arrests, allegations the military denies.

Sinai-based militants have stepped up attacks on the security forces since the army takeover and assaults like that in Cairo's Maadi suburb fuel fears of an Islamist insurgency like one in the 1990s crushed by then President Hosni Mubarak.

Two people were wounded in the attack on the state-owned satellite station while medical sources said three were killed and 48 injured in a blast near a state security building in South Sinai. A witness said it was caused by a car bomb.

“Unidentified people opened fire on a satellite receiver station in the neighborhood of Maadi in Cairo,” the Ministry of Interior said in a statement. Security sources said assailants fired two rocket-propelled grenades at the site.

Security sources said gunmen opened fire on the soldiers in Ismailia while they were sitting in a car at a checkpoint near the city on the Canal, a vital global trade route.

TOURISM HIT

Traffic flowed freely in the centre of Cairo where Sunday's clashes had taken place and state radio said security forces were in control of the country.

But attacks in Cairo like Monday's on the satellite station could do further damage to Egypt's vital tourism industry.

David Hartwell, a Middle East analyst at IHS Jane's, said more explosive devices seemed to be being used in the capital.

“It suggests that Sinai groups are infiltrating in greater numbers in to northern Egypt,” he said. “Either these groups are expanding out of Sinai, he said, “or the capabilities that they have is being used by other groups that may or not be affiliated with the Brotherhood.”

Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has promised a political roadmap that would lead Egypt to free and fair elections, said in the interview published on Monday that Egypt's interests differed from those of the Brotherhood.

“I told Mursi in February you failed and your project is finished,” privately-owned newspaper al-Masry al-Youm quoted Sisi as saying.

Militant attacks, including a failed assassination attempt on the interior minister in Cairo in September, are deepening uncertainty in Egypt along with the power struggle between the Brotherhood and the army-backed government.

Neither side seems willing to pursue reconciliation, raising the possibility of protracted tensions in U.S. ally Egypt.

Almost daily attacks by al Qaeda-inspired militants in the Sinai have killed more than 100 members of the security forces since early July, the army spokesman said on September 15.

Security forces smashed pro-Mursi protest camps in Cairo on August 14, killing hundreds of people. In an ensuing crackdown, many Muslim Brotherhood leaders were arrested in an attempt to decapitate Egypt's oldest Islamist movement.

The Brotherhood, which had proven highly resilient after previous crackdowns, has embarked on a strategy of staging smaller protests to avoid action by security forces.

Sisi denied Brotherhood allegations that the army had intended to remove Mursi through a coup, saying it had only responded to the will of the people.

Before Mursi's overthrow, Egyptians disillusioned with his year-long rule had held huge rallies demanding that he quit.

Last month, a court banned the Brotherhood and froze its assets, pushing the group, which had dominated elections held in Egypt after Mubarak's fall in 2011, further into the cold.

Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh and Maggie Fick; Writing by Michael Georgy

Al-Qaida-affiliated terror group says it’s resuming holy war against Jews


A terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaida that claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on northern Israel said it has resumed a jihad, or holy war, against the Jews.

The Lebanon-based Azzam Abdullah Brigades said the rocket attack last week was carried out “as part of the resumption of the jihad against the Jews.”

“We’ve frozen the activity for the sake of the blessed Syrian revolution,” read the statement posted Monday on the Twitter account of a radical Salafist cleric.

Azzam Abdullah Brigades, an offshoot of al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed responsibility for firing four long-range missiles into northern Israel, including two that fell in residential areas, causing damage to houses and cars in Nahariya and Acre.

The “green light given by Israel and the Western countries to Hezbollah in the fight against our people in Syria, so that Israel could safeguard its security, will not provide it with security,” the statement said. “Rather, it will bring it closer to the fire of the jihadi fighters and make it much more exposed to them.”

The attack gives the “Jewish conquerors an indication of the quality of rockets in our possession,” it said. “Haifa should be decorated with the most magnificent shrouds to greet our rockets.”

At least one rocket in the attack was intercepted by an Iron Dome anti-missile battery deployed in the area, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Rockets fired from Lebanon land in Israel


Four rockets fired from Lebanon landed in northern Israel.

One of the rockets from Thursday afternoon fell in a field in Nahariya, according to reports. There were no reports of injuries or casualties.

The rockets were fired from a Palestinian refugee camp, Palestinian media reported, according to The Times of Israel.

At least one was intercepted by an Iron Dome anti-missile battery deployed in the area, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

Color Red alerts warning of an incoming rocket were sounded in several northern Israeli cities, including Kiryat Shemona, as well as Acre and Nahariya.

Israel says it bombed Lebanon in retaliation for rocket attack


Israel's air force bombed a militant target in Lebanon on Friday in retaliation for a cross-border rocket salvo on Thursday, a spokesman said.

An Israeli military source said the “terror site” bombed was near Na'ameh, between Beirut and Sidon, but did not immediately provide further details.

Four rockets fired on Thursday caused damage but no casualties in northern Israel. They were claimed by an al Qaeda-linked Sunni Muslim group rather than Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shiite militia that holds sway in south Lebanon.

“Israel will not tolerate terrorist aggression originating from Lebanese territory,” military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said in a statement announcing Friday's air strike.

Israel and Lebanon are technically at war. Israel briefly invaded Lebanon during an inconclusive 2006 conflict with Hezbollah. The Israelis now are reluctant to open a new Lebanese front, however, given spiraling regional instability.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Bill Trott

Amid violent clashes, Egypt closes border with Gaza


Egypt closed the border between Sinai and the Gaza Strip as clashes between its government security forces and protesters backing deposed President Mohamed Morsi continued for a second day.

The Rafah crossing was closed “indefinitely,” the French news agency AFP reported Thursday, citing an unnamed Egyptian security official. The crossing was closed due to fears of terrorist activity in the Sinai Peninsula.

Rafah is the only border crossing out of the Gaza Strip that is not controlled by Israel.

The death toll in the clashes has risen to at least 421, and the injured at more than 3,000, according to reports.

The violence began Wednesday after government security forces raided two major sit-in protests in Cairo calling for the reinstatement of Morsi.

On Tuesday, a rocket fired by terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida at the southern Israeli city of Eilat was intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Last week the Eilat airport was closed for several hours due to warnings by Egyptian officials about a terror attack from the Sinai.

As prisoner release begins, rockets fired at Israel


Rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel as Palestinian prisoners being released by Israel were being transported to the border.

One rocket fired Tuesday night at Sderot fell short of its target and is believed to have landed inside Gaza. A second rocket landed in the nearby Sha’ar Hanegev region in an open area.

A day earlier, a long-range Grad rocket was fired at Eilat and intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

In the prisoner release, 26 Palestinians were transported in vans to crossings into the West Bank and Gaza. They are scheduled to cross the borders at midnight.

Israel agreed to release the prisoners in order to bring the Palestinians back to the peace negotiating table.

The Hamas leadership in Gaza has ordered the rival Fatah party to refrain from holding celebrations welcoming home the prisoners, saying it would hold an official ceremony later in the week.  Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will meet with the prisoners returning to the West Bank.

Eventually 104 prisoners jailed before the 1993 Oslo Accords will be released in phases over the next eight months, pending progress in the renewed peace talks.

The talks are scheduled to resume Wednesday in Jerusalem following a three-year freeze, but the Palestinians have threatened to skip the meeting in protest over the order in which the prisoners are being released as well as the announcement of new construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, according to reports.

Reports: Hamas missiles can reach Tel Aviv


Hamas has rockets that can reach Tel Aviv, according to Israeli media reports.

The Gaza-based terrorist organization is producing long-range rockets that can reach into central Israel, Army Radio reported Monday.

Israel had targeted the  advanced M-75 rockets and their launchers during last November’s Operation Pillar of Defense. Hamas managed to fire off several of the rockets during the conflict, according to Ynet.

A long-range M-75 missile landed south of Ashkelon in February, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Rocket fired from Egypt found in Israel


Israeli troops found the remains on Tuesday of the first rocket to be fired from Egypt since the July 3 overthrow of the Islamist government there, a military official said.

Both Israelis and Egyptians reported hearing several explosions in the southern city of Eilat on Thursday, the day after President Mohammed Morsi was toppled from power in Egypt.

Israel detected no signs of any cross-border shooting, but found the remains of a rocket on Tuesday, an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

An Israeli military spokesman said the rocket remnant had been discovered in the hills north of Eilat, a resort city on the Red Sea that abuts Egypt to the west and Jordan to the east.

The rocket was the first since the latest bout of unrest in Egypt that has put Israel on edge in part because of an increase of Islamist militancy in the Sinai region since an uprising toppled autocratic president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

In Egypt, a hardline Salafist Islamist group called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdes, whose name means “Followers of Jerusalem,” issued a statement claiming to have fired rockets at Eilat, targeting fuel depots and residential areas.

Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla in Cairo; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Meet the laser that guides the Iron Dome (soon to be made in the USA)


Six months after the Iron Dome defense system rendered Hamas rockets largely ineffective during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza,  I got a tour of the factory that produces its most vital component: a laser.

The system, which can shoot down rockets within a circumference of 65 sq. miles, takes two trucks to transport and tens of millions of dollars per unit to build. In November’s Gaza fighting, it boasted almost 90 percent accuracy.

The laser is responsible for that success rate – the machine’s brains: once the Iron Dome is in place, the laser detects every flying object and decides – based on trajectory and velocity – whether it’s a bird, a plane or a missile aimed at an Israeli town.

Then, judging from the missile’s arc, the laser can determine the two most vital pieces of information – where the missile came from, and where it’s going. Israel then fires at the launching pad. If the missile headed toward a populated area, a siren goes off warning residents while the Iron Dome shoots an interceptor missile to take out the incoming bomb.

And what decides where that interceptor missile goes, and guides it toward its target? The laser.

All of this happens, by the way, in a matter of minutes. And it’s all automatic.

“You do not have the luxury to have a person in the loop,” said Meir Conforti, head of North American marketing for Elta, the Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary that manufactures the laser. “You have people in the loop to stop it if they see something is mistaken.”

For all of its functions, the laser isn’t lithe, and looks like a huge, smooth metallic green rectangle that towers over people’s heads. It’s not easy to transport, either. It takes several hours to a day to move it around Israel, and its movements are followed closely. Where the Iron Dome is deployed has become a way for Israelis to judge which border is tensest. Recently, following flareups in Syria, the defense system moved north.

Soon, though, part of the laser may be made in the U.S. For my tour, I tagged along on a visit from Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, widely considered a contender for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Elta plans to manufacture parts for the laser in a Maryland factory.

But regardless of how effective the radar is now, Conforti stressed that improving it is key to the Iron Dome’s success.

“The world is not static,” he said. “The radar of today can cope with the current threat.”

But, he added, “Kassam missiles are getting better every day.”

Explosives detonate near Gaza border, damaging Israeli army vehicle


Explosives detonated near the border fence with Gaza damaged an Israeli military vehicle.

Terrorists planted the explosives that were detonated Tuesday while the Israeli army's engineering unit was working near the fence, the Israel Defense Forces said. The unit was searching for explosive charges that intelligence reports said were buried in the area.

The IDF said the detonation on the border was the first since the end of the weeklong Operation Pillar of Defense in November.

Meanwhile, the IDF on Monday moved two Iron Dome missile defense batteries to southern Israel in the wake of rocket attacks from Gaza, including one on the evening of Holocaust Remembrance Day that disrupted ceremonies in the area.

Palestinian rocket, not Israel, killed infant in Gaza, U.N. says


A Palestinian rocket killed the 11-month-old son of a BBC employee during Israel's November operation in Gaza, the United Nations determined.

Israel had been blamed for the death of Omar Jihad al-Mishrawi, the son of BBC Arabic journalist Jihad al-Mishrawi, as well as Hiba Aadel Fadel al-Mishrawi, 19. But a report released last week by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the two were killed by a Palestinian rocket fired at Israel that missed its target.

The report criticized Israel and the Palestinians for violating international law during the Israeli military's eight-day Operation Pillar of Defense.

The Palestinians fired nearly 1,500 rockets into Israel during the operation; Israel struck more than 1,500 sites during the operation.

U.S. aims to support Israeli defense systems despite budget cuts


New U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with his Israeli counterpart on Tuesday, expressing strong support for Israeli missile and rocket defense systems despite fiscal uncertainty caused by across-the-board spending cuts.

“Secretary Hagel is committed to working with members of Congress to ensure that there is no interruption of funding for Iron Dome, Arrow, and David's Sling rocket and missile defense systems,” a U.S. defense official said.

Hagel's nearly two-hour-long talks with Israel's Ehud Barak represented his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign counterpart since he took over the Pentagon on Feb. 27.

Reporting by Phil Stewart

Rocket explodes in Israel, first attack from Gaza since November truce


A rocket fired from Gaza exploded in Israel on Tuesday, the first such attack since a November truce and an apparent show of solidarity with West Bank protests after the death of a Palestinian in an Israeli jail.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's West Bank-based Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the rocket strike, the Palestinian Ma'an news agency said. No casualties were reported.

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, said it was investigating. There was no military response from Israel, hours after the rocket slammed into a road near its southern city of Ashkelon.

The rocket was the first to hit Israel since a November 21 truce brokered by Egypt that ended eight days of cross-border air strikes and missile attacks in which 175 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.

Tuesday's strike came after a surge of unrest in the West Bank, that has raised fears in Israel of a new Palestinian Intifada (uprising).

On Monday, thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank turned out for the funeral of Arafat Jaradat, 30, who died in disputed circumstances in an Israeli prison on Saturday.

Israeli police shot and wounded five Palestinian youths during confrontations in Bethlehem and outside a West Bank prison later the same day, leaving a 15-year-old boy in critical condition, Israeli and Palestinian medical sources said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman, commenting on the incident, said troops had opened fire at Palestinians who threw homemade hand grenades at a Jewish holy site called Rachel's Tomb, in the Bethlehem area.

Before the rocket attack from Gaza, media reports said Israeli officials had hoped the Palestinian protests were winding down a week after they were launched in sympathy with four prisoners on intermittent hunger strikes.

The U.S. State Department said American diplomats have contacted Israeli and Palestinian leaders to appeal for calm.

The United Nations coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, called for an investigation of Jaradat's death. Jaradat had been arrested a week ago for throwing stones at Israeli cars in the West Bank.

Palestinian officials said he had died after being tortured in prison. But Israel said an autopsy carried out in the presence of a Palestinian coroner was inconclusive.

Palestinian frustration has also been fuelled by Israel's expansion of Jewish settlements in territory captured in a 1967 war and deadlocked diplomacy for a peace agreement since 2010.

Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Jeffrey Heller

Southern Israel hit by Gaza rocket for first time in three months


rocket fired from Gaza hit southern Israel for the first time in three months, causing some damage.

A long-range Grad rocket struck early on Feb. 26 in the industrial zone of Ashkelon.

The al-Aksa Martyrs’ Brigades, the military wing of the Fatah party led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, claimed responsibility, saying it was in response to the death of Arafat Jaradat, a Palestinian man who died in an Israeli jail.

Palestinians have rioted in several areas of the West Bank since Jaradat’s death on Feb. 23, and two Palestinian children were injured in riots on Feb. 25 following the funeral. The Palestinians claim Jaradat died as a result of Israeli torture; Israel refutes the claim.

“We will never be free without fighting, and we must struggle in every way possible, including armed struggle, against the Israeli enemy,” said a statement issued by the the al-Aksa Martyrs’ Brigades following the attack.

The last time a rocket fired from Gaza struck Israel was during last November’s Pillar of Defense, an eight-day defensive operation by the Israeli army. Some 1,500 rockets were fired from Gaza on southern Israel during the operation.

No Color Red alert was sounded to warn residents of the approaching rocket. A military source told Ynet that the alert did not sound because it was believed the rocket would hit an unpopulated area.

There was no Iron Dome anti-missile battery in the vicinity either, as it had been redeployed since the threat of rockets being fired from Gaza had been determined to be low.