Fri, Oct 26, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Militants using Google Earth to target Israel

SATELLITE IMAGES The company says the imagery on Google Earth and Google Maps is not unique

THE GUARDIAN , GAZA CITY

Palestinian militants are using Google Earth to help plan their attacks on the Israeli military and other targets.

Members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a group aligned with the Fatah political party, say they use the popular internet mapping tool to help determine their targets for rocket strikes.

"We obtain the details from Google Earth and check them against our maps of the city center and sensitive areas," said Khaled Jaabari, the group's chief in Gaza who is known as Abu Walid.

Abu Walid showed the Guardian an aerial image of the Israeli town of Sderot on his computer to show how his group searches for targets. The Guardian filmed an al-Aqsa test rocket launch, fired into an uninhabited area of the Negev desert, last month.

Many of the rockets have landed in Sderot, killing around a dozen people in the last three years and wounding scores more.

Al-Aqsa is one of several militant groups firing rockets, known as Qassams, from Gaza into Israel. A rocket attack by Islamic Jihad on a military base last month wounded more than 50 soldiers.

Abu Walid insists there is no contradiction between his group's actions and talk of peace by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah's leader.

Bringing up archive footage of rocket launches on his computer, Abu Walid said that the group had modified the rockets to travel longer distances by cultivating salt from the sea, adding: "It's a secret process, but we're very excited by the results."

The Google Earth mapping program includes satellite maps and detailed 3D models of some areas. Although the satellite images are only updated on an irregular basis -- meaning that pictures of mobile targets would be unusable -- some defense experts have said the easy availability of information can increase the risks for military organizations.

"There is a constant threat of reconnaissance missions to access our bases and using these Internet images is just another method of how this is conducted," Major Charlie Burbridge, a British military spokesman, said earlier this year.

In January, UK officials said insurgents sympathetic to al-Qaeda were using aerial photography in Google Earth to locate potential targets inside British bases around the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

"We have paid close attention to concerns that Google Earth creates new security risks," Google said in a statement. "The imagery visible on Google Earth and Google Maps is not unique: commercial high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery of every country in the world is widely available from numerous sources."

Also See: Israel orders new sanctions on Gaza

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