Senior members of the IAF special reconnaissance Flying Camel Squadron discussed their role in gathering intelligence from the air during Operation Protective Edge, and noted frustration at having to abort airstrikes due to Hamas's use of civilian cover.
"We don’t have bombs on our planes; we have cameras that do intelligence work, and our job is to make sure that the bombs hit the right targets and only the right targets," said Lt. Col. Y, commander of the squadron, as reported by the IDF Blog this Monday.
The commander admitted "sometimes it’s very frustrating because you actually see rockets being launched from mosques, schoolyards - from places you can’t attack. And a lot of the time, it’s from the vicinity of these facilities. When it’s nearby, we try to clear the place."
"If the situation is unclear, the attack will be aborted. Maybe we would return to strike the target at a different time, or maybe not hit the site at all," added Lt. Col. Y, noting how Hamas's callous use of the Gaza populace is harming the IDF's ability to defend Israel.
Noting on the effect of the strike abortions, Lt. Col. Y added "it's not easy during battle, because you sabotage your operational achievement. Nevertheless, we do it because we believe its important."
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) has blamed Israel's "misplaced pity" for Gaza residents as being responsible for the deaths of IDF soldiers. In one case, reports indicated that a strike was called off on a booby-trapped UN clinic, forcing soldiers to go in without air cover; three soldiers were killed as the building exploded, and seven more were wounded.
An example of an airstrike on July 10 aborted after the Flying Camel Squadron gathered real-time intelligence of children entering the terror target site can be seen here:
Speaking about the operation, Lt. Col. Y stated "a lot of Hamas infrastructure is underground. They fire from pits and tunnels. We know this because after we’d hit the coordinate, we would see the underground infrastructure; we saw the tunnels, we saw the openings, the hidden ammunition etc."
Conferring with his squadron commander, Cpt. O, an operations officer and pilot for the Flying Camels, said "we face an enemy who puts its civilians in the middle of the conflict. ...Hamas targets indiscriminately - they fire rockets wherever they can. We pinpoint targets as much as we can and we bomb areas where we know for a fact they are used to attack Israeli civilians."
Cpt. O added that "as a person, hearing about children being killed is heartbreaking and that’s understandable for everyone. The IDF puts a lot of time, money and effort into training us to prevent civilian casualties.”
The Flying Camels Squadron, which has operated in all of Israel's wars, uses only Israeli optical equipment consisting of the most advanced cutting edge technology.
The capabilities are needed because sometimes terror targets "can be very close to a house, so the attack needs to be very accurate," noted Lt. Col. Y.
An example of a pinpoint strike on a weapons cache and terrorist gathering point within the house of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander in Khan Yunis on July 9 can been seen below.
It is worth noting that the home, located as close as 18 meters from an adjacent civilian home, is described by the IDF video as a gathering point for "militants," using a term popular in the international media to sanitize terrorists. In this context, many have lamented Israel's shortcomings in the global PR war.