Gaza war crimes: Drone plane kills civilians

Story Transcript

VOICEOVER: Israel has pioneered a new type of all-seeing precision weapon: the armed drone. The capabilities of this hunter-killer, which can track a person walking along a street and strike with precision, are a military secret. To use these weapons against civilians is a war crime. But a Guardian investigation has uncovered evidence from the Israeli military themselves that proves just how clearly these weapons can see. So why did one of these drones kill an entire family having tea in their courtyard? Why did these hunter-killers target a group of women and girls walking down the street holding a white flag? Nearly 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the attack on Gaza. More than half were civilians. Four hundred and thirty-one of them were children. Six members of Munir’s family were killed by an armed drone. They were having tea in their courtyard when they saw a drone in the sky above watching them. Then it fired.

MUNIR (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): The rocket landed here. It fell like a ball of fire from that direction. We came back outside. We found Mohammed lying here cut in half. Ahmad was in three pieces. Wahid was totally burnt; his eyes were gone. Wahid’s father was pretty much dead. Nour had been decapitated. We couldn’t see her head anywhere.

VOICEOVER: Fatiya is Munir’s niece. Her mother, father, and four siblings were killed in the attack.

FATIYA (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): My brother Mohammed was—I went to pick him up but he was just pieces of flesh. Our house is like a cemetery: we come to visit the dead and then we leave.

VOICEOVER: The Guardian spent three weeks in Gaza investigating why so many civilians and children were killed in the 23-day siege. Were they all cases of mistaken identity? This internal Israeli magazine obtained by The Guardian contains eyewitness reports from Israeli soldiers who fought in the conflict. When we investigated further, we found this interview in the magazine’s online version, shavuz. The man quoted is a serving drone operator from the latest offensive. He describes just how clearly these drones can see.

TEXT ON SCREEN (VOICEOVER TRANSLATION): We identified a terrorist that looked like an Israeli soldier. Our camera enabled us to see him very clearly. He was wearing a green parka jacket and he was walking around with a huge radio that looked exactly like an army radio. He was wearing an army helmet, and he was ducking down with a weapon close to the wall, wearing black trousers. It was very clear he wasn’t a soldier.

VOICEOVER: Former British artillery commander Major Chris Cobb-Smith has 30 years’ experience in the world’s worst combat zones. He visited the family during his work with Amnesty, investigating war crimes.

MAJOR CHRIS COBB-SMITH, MUNITIONS EXPERT: Why did we see so much indiscriminate killing of the civilian population? And I think questions have got to be asked and investigations have got to be done as to why that happened. We visited a case where a family, virtually an entire family, were killed in their courtyard by one of these drone attacks. They’ve been hit with an advanced weapons system with extreme accuracy. And to me there’s absolutely no excuse whatsoever for this.

MUNIR: Did they kill any fights in this operation? No! They murdered three generations. They didn’t kill any fighters; they killed an innocent family.

FATIYA: They’ve deprived them of life. Why have they deprived us of living? Why aren’t we allowed to live like any other people? Why is it forbidden for us to live our lives?

MUNIR: In the end the war finished. What did they achieve? What happened? The situation is still the same. Has anything changed?

ROBERT HEWSON, EDITOR, JANE’S AIR-LAURCHED WEAPONS: The sophistication of this technology is really very impressive. And what it allows you to do is watch scenes, watch individual people with phenomenal detail. You can sit over a target area for many hours on end while your presence is more or less undetected.

VOICEOVER: The watching is done from a control room similar to this one, usually miles away from the battlefield. Then the button is pressed.

FATIYA: There was a drone hovering above us. It sounded like it was very close to us.

VOICEOVER: Mariam’s daughter Ma’ather and niece Faten were killed on January 8 whilst trying to seek refuge during the fighting.

MARIAM (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): There was no one around us. It was just us. No one was carrying anything. Just two beautiful girls with huge smiles on their faces. She was carrying just a little purse, walking in front of me. She was looking back at me and signaling, "C’mon, c’mon." I was at this exact spot.

ATHEA (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): My sister Ma’ather and Faten were just ahead of us.

MARIAM: Then suddenly this missile came and hit them. There was an explosion and fire, and they fell the the floor. May God help us.

ATHEA: The heat of the explosion made me turn my face. I started to run and then stopped to see who was still alive.

MARIAM: I started saying, "My daughters. My daughters." People were trying to drag me away before I got hit by another rocket from the drone.

VOICEOVER: This hole is the telltale signature of an Israeli armed drone. Mariam and her daughter Athea were just two meters from the girls when they died.

HEWSON: It can find the target; it can positively identify it, shoot, and then confirm that the right target has been engaged. And it’s certainly going on in Gaza and other places where Israel is involved.

VOICEOVER: Mariam spots an unmanned reconnaissance balloon and the pair start to panic.

MARIAM: Enough. I’ve had enough. I want to leave now! Let’s go.

ATHEA: When I see drones or airplanes like this, I get very scared, I start to panic, I can’t think straight.

VOICEOVER: Mariam is too terrified to continue and hurries back towards her house. Amnesty International uncovered 48 deaths by armed drones during the course of a wider investigation, but they believe there were many more.

COBB-SMITH: Scores of people were killed in these densely populated areas, in individual buildings which were not—they’re just not military targets. You know, this is almost endemic out there. This isn’t just the odd occasion. We’re going to scene upon scene upon scene, incident upon incident.

VOICEOVER: We asked the Israeli army about their use of armed drones on civilians, but they refused to be interviewed.

HEWSON: Israel’s armed UAVs, these unmanned aerial vehicles, they’ve been an open secret in Israeli service for years now. I would imagine that there was from the beginning an impetus to keep that secret, simply so that the people that they were out to get with these systems wouldn’t know what was coming after them.

VOICEOVER: The Israeli army also refused to respond to testimonies by Gazan families whose relatives have been killed in drone attacks. Instead, they offered this written statement:

TEXT ON SCREEN: The Israeli Defence Force operated in accordance with the rules of war … and did the utmost to minimize harm to civilians uninvolved in combat. The Israeli Defence Force’s use of weapons conforms to international law.

VOICEOVER: Each one of these deaths, including the families of Mariam and Munir, was videoed by the drone that killed them. Every mission is recorded and archived. If Israel wants to refute these allegations of war crimes, it has the evidence to do so.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.