We are all fighting like Israel now
Drone strikes may seem unpalatable but the global spread of terror means tough choices have quickly become unavoidable
Like the eyes of Mona Lisa, a drone circling in the summer sky always seems to be following you around. When this airborne dagger tilts its glittering wings, the silver form appears to be orbiting above your head – and no-one else’s.
I discovered this disturbing psychological illusion during Israel’s trial of strength against Hamas last summer. For every hour of that 50-day clash, the people of Gaza were forced to live with the buzzing presence of airborne avengers.
The apparent fate of the British terrorist known as Jihadi Johndemonstrates that killer drones are now gathering above the Syrian city of Raqqa. They will not say so, but America and Britain have quietly adopted central elements of Israel’s modus operandi. A method of warfare, developed to deal with Hamas fighters in the alleys of Gaza, is being transposed to the plains of Syria to combat another enemy that hides among civilians.
In Gaza, Israel has spent decades building an intricate system that allows the delivery of swift retribution for rocket attacks – or the elimination of selected individuals. America and its allies are now borrowing from the same manual and trying to build a comparable system in the domain of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
But the circling drone – and the decision to release a Hellfire missile – form only the last link in a long and complex chain. What makes Israeli drone strikes in Gaza so lethally effective is a remarkable intelligence network.
Just as Israel follows the movements of Hamas commanders in Gaza, so Jihadi John will have been tracked for months before the missile fell from the sky. Some of that surveillance may have been done electronically, but it must be assumed that the terrorist was wise enough to make life difficult for his pursuers by dumping his smartphone and laptop.
In Gaza, Israel supplements high-tech surveillance with a network of informers. America and Britain will be trying to do the same in Raqqa and the rest of Isil-controlled Syria. The aim will be to keep the likes of Jihadi John under the surveillance of human or electronic eyes as
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