Spot and Shoot, as it is called by the Israeli military, may look like a video game but the figures on the screen are real people – Palestinians in Gaza – who can be killed with the press of a button on the joystick. The Spot and Shoot system – officially known as Sentry Tech – has mostly attracted attention because it is operated by 19- and 20-year-old female soldiers, making it the Israeli army’s only weapons system operated exclusively by women. The female soldiers, located far away in an operations room, are responsible for aiming and firing remote-controlled machine-guns mounted on watch-towers every few hundred meters along an electronic fence that surrounds Gaza. The women are supposed to identify anyone suspicious approaching the fence around Gaza and, if authorized by an officer, execute them using their joysticks. The system was phased-in two years ago for surveillance, but operators were only able to open fire with it more recently. The army admitted using Sentry Tech in December 2009 to kill at least two Palestinians several hundred meters inside the fence.
The system is one of the latest “remote killing” devices developed by Israel’s Rafael armaments company, the former weapons research division of the Israeli army and now a separate governmental firm. According to Giora Katz, Rafael’s vice president, remote-controlled military hardware such as Spot and Shoot is the face of the future. He expects that within a decade at least a third of the machines used by the Israeli army to control land, air and sea will be unmanned.
Rapid progress with the technology has raised alarm at the United Nations. Philip Alston, its special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, warned last month of the danger that a “PlayStation mentality to killing” could quickly emerge.
According to analysts, however, Israel is unlikely to turn its back on hardware that it has been at the forefront of developing – using the occupied Palestinian territories, and especially Gaza, as testing laboratories. Remotely controlled weapons systems are in high demand from repressive regimes and the burgeoning homeland security industries around the globe. “These systems are still in the early stages of development but there is a large and growing market for them,” said Shlomo Brom, a retired general and defence analyst at the Institute of National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
Rafael is reported to be developing a version of Sentry Tech that will fire long-range guided missiles. Another piece of hardware recently developed for the Israeli army is the Guardium, an armored robot-car that can patrol territory at up to 80km per hour, navigate through cities, launch “ambushes” and shoot at targets. It now patrols the Israeli borders with Gaza and Lebanon.
Israel is most known for its role in developing “unmanned aerial vehicles” – or drones, as they have come to be known. Originally intended for spying, and first used by Israel over south Lebanon in the early 1980s, today they are increasingly being used for extrajudicial executions from thousands of feet in the sky.
Title: Israel paves the way for killing by remote control
Source: The National (Abu Dhabi) 7/14/10
Author: Jonathan Cook URL:http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100713/FOREIGN/707129834&SearchID=7339683903688 Faculty Evaluator: Peter Philllips, Sonoma State University