Israel says it knocked out Hamas drone program

On Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, Israeli Defense Forces released this video it claims shows a Hamas drone aircraft being tested in Khan Yunis, Gaza. IDF/YouTube

Last Updated at 7:42 p.m. Eastern

TEL AVIV An Israeli Defense Force spokesman said Friday that a Hamas militant program to build and launch drone aircraft has been destroyed.

Speaking on Israeli television, an IDF spokesman said that for the past few months Israel has been monitoring Hamas' attempt to build a drone fleet.

Black-and-white video released by the IDF shows a strike on a Hamas drone being tested at Khan Yunis in Gaza. In a Twitter message the IDF said the video shows "what that program once looked like."

Israel appeared to be preparing for an escalation of its military operation against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, with troops and armored vehicles gathering on the border, and a call to 16,000 Israeli reservists.

On Friday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak sought approval to mobilize up to 75,000 reservists, Reuters reports.

The latest moves come as Hamas-fired rockets were launched against Jerusalem for the first time, along with commercial hub Tel Aviv, showing off their expanded range.

CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey and his team -- along with other news crews -- were forced by the Israeli military to move away from the border of the Gaza Strip on Friday morning, another signal pointing to a possible ground incursion into the tiny Palestinian territory.

Pizzey reports that as dawn broke in the Israeli town of Sderot, on the Gaza border, the extent of the force massed along the frontier made it clear Israel was preparing for a ground fight -- 16,000 Israeli reservists were called up on Thursday. The last invasion was four years ago, and analysts say Hamas will be better prepared this time.

Israeli soldiers with armored vehicles gather in a staging ground near the border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. Fierce clashes between Israeli forces and Gaza militants are continuing for the third day.
AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov

Air raid sirens sounded in the two cities which -- unlike population centers in Israel's south -- had not been exposed to rocket fire from Hamas-ruled Gaza before the current round of cross-border fighting. No injuries were reported, but Hamas' latest attempts to hit Israel's heartland could push Israel closer to sending ground troops into Gaza.

Over the past three days, Israel has relentlessly pounded suspected rocket launching sites and other Hamas targets in Gaza with scores of airstrikes, while Hamas has fired more than 450 rockets toward Israel. The overall death toll rose to 30 -- 27 Palestinians and three Israelis.

In Israel, Pizzey reported, a funeral Friday was interrupted by a warning siren that another missile was on its way. There is a growing fear that Hamas has vastly improved its arsenal.

A Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida was quoted by news agencies as saying: "We are sending a short and simple message: There is no security for any Zionist on any single inch of Palestine and we plan more surprises." Hamas officials said the rocket was a homemade "M-75" rocket, a weapon that has never been fired before.

Map of the Middle East
Map of the Middle East and Israel
CBS

While no one was hurt when the missile fell just short of the ancient city (which is also home to hundreds of Palestinians, and the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest shrine in Islam), the attack told Israelis that Jerusalem - about 50 miles from the Gaza Strip - is no longer out of reach.

If indeed the missile was fired from Gaza, it demonstrated that Hamas' military wing has figured out how to extend the range of its missiles, perhaps by cutting down on the payload to add more fuel, said Pizzey.

On Friday United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Hamas to end its rocket attacks on Israel, and asked Israeli leaders to exercise maximum restraint, to prevent a further escalation of violence.

Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said the secretary-general is "deeply worried by the rising cost in terms of civilian lives."

"A new cycle of bloodshed will make neither Israelis nor Palestinians more secure. Nor will bloodshed open the door to negotiations that could achieve the two-state solution necessary to end such violence permanently," the U.N. official said.

Popular

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

New Android App

For your Android phone and tablet, download the FREE redesigned app, featuring CBSN, live 24/7 news.

Download

New Android App

For your Android phone and tablet, download the FREE redesigned app, featuring CBSN, live 24/7 news.

Download