'Spy in the sky' showed whole picture

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The Independent Online
The UN's conclusion that the Israelis hit its base at Qana with 100lb artillery shells, which burst in the air to kill more than 100 Lebanese refugees, resolves many of the questions raised by the tragic event two weeks ago.

The film exclusively obtained by the Independent shows an un-manned, Remotely Piloted Vehicle - which would have relayed pictures back to the Israeli command "real time" - circling directly above the camp.

Whether the drone was part of the artillery fire control system, or engaged in longer term intelligence gathering would have made little difference. Either way, the Israeli command would have known instantly what they were firing at.

The drone would have provided reasonable quality TV pictures of the carnage on the ground. Even if there had been a mistake, as Israel claimed, a well disciplined artillery force would have immediately received the order "stop!"

The Israelis did not need such an un-manned aircraft to identify a target with extreme accuracy. The US-built Firefinder radar, which should have picked up the course of Hizbollah's BM-21 rockets allegedly fired from due north of the UN base at Qana, would have pinpointed the launch site to within 10 metres.

The Global Positioning Systems on the Israeli 155mm self-propelled guns - also able to fix their position to within 10 metres - and the fire control computers available, which are able to feed in the charge temperature, air density and the locations of individual guns, would all have been able to ensure the fire converged to hit the target to within 100 metres.

The Israelis later claimed they were firing directly over the UN base at the rocket launcher site and that, in this case, the natural distribution of the shells along the line of flight had caused some to fall short.

However, the UN evidence found that the Israeli guns were not firing directly over the Fijian UN camp and that the fire lasted longer than could be explained by an over-hasty engagement in response to the detection of Hizbollah rockets.

Shortly after the Qana massacre, Israeli sources said they expected a local commander to be blamed for ignoring the "safety zone" around the UN base. The UN investigator, General Van Kappen, has examined Israeli maps and command procedures. It now seems the blame has been shifted upwards, to the commander of the Northern Military District, but still falls short of blaming the Israeli government for a deliberate policy of hitting refugees or the UN.

It was clear there were only two explanations for Qana. One was military incompetence on a scale which could hardly have been expected from the much vaunted Israeli armed forces. The other was deliberate attack on a UN base.

Immediately after, the Israelis said it was a mixture of both - in the "fog of war". The UN report has found it was not.

Letters, page 14