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This amazing weapon
August 28, 2001 9:12 PM   Subscribe

This amazing weapon was fired by a helicopter into the third floor of a building and was so accurate it actually decapitated its target without harming the other tenants.
posted by semmi (60 comments total)

 
Yah for technology!

Its this kind of mindless, careless, and dangerous "military act" that will eventually lead both sides to escalate to a mini-nuke that'll make the entire "Holy land" unlivable for generations.
posted by skallas at 9:22 PM on August 28, 2001


Gosh. I'm so thrilled by this development. *roll eyes*
posted by solistrato at 9:29 PM on August 28, 2001


Decapitation is so k3wL!

Sorry, people who are impressed by weapons have always creeped me out...
posted by kevspace at 9:48 PM on August 28, 2001 [1 favorite]


The man killed was the leader of "the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. " Why does that remind me of Life of Brian?
posted by wackybrit at 9:51 PM on August 28, 2001


Splitters!
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:53 PM on August 28, 2001


without harming the other tenants

It would be easy to get that impression from the sentence early on in the article: "Neighboring apartments full of Palestinian American families were splattered with shards that sprayed from windows shattered by the blast, but none of their inhabitants was reported injured."

A closer reading, though, makes it clear that this refers to the Palestinian Americans. On the other hand, as we learn later, "three of their Palestinian neighbors were hurt by flying glass, including a woman, 18, who lives downstairs and was hospitalized with moderate injuries."

Don't get me wrong--this is still impressive. If people insist on killing each other, it is of course better to limit the unintentional damage to a few injuries than to indiscriminately kill great masses, better to scar children with nightmares than with burns, better to kill a few powerful leaders than armies of young soldiers. But let us not be too quick to congratulate every new advancement in the fine art of killing. Let us at least bear in mind that such things seem necessary only because people have failed, again and again, to live peacably with their neighbours even to the minimal degree of refraining from murdering them.

("wait... aren't we the Judean People's Front.")
posted by moss at 10:22 PM on August 28, 2001


What gets me, other than how ridiculous it is that Israelis, people who live in a religious state, are firing missiles at individuals sitting at desks in crowded apartment buildings is that the missile used is "so accurate as to minimize chances of unintended casualties."

Just because chances have been minimized does not mean that they will not occur. And the term "unintended casualties" just makes me sick. Oops! Sorry to all those poor kids who were just doodling in the room downstairs! Sorry we blew your apartment up to kill one guy who was sitting on his butt. Sorry we killed your mom by accident.

Every time something like this happens, I get one tick more conservative, one step closer to thinking we should turn all of the 'holy land' into a parking lot.
posted by benbrown at 10:32 PM on August 28, 2001


yah. dude. killing. awesome.
posted by Satapher at 10:44 PM on August 28, 2001


"so accurate as to minimize chances of unintended casualties"

well the US's awesome missiles bombed the chinese embassy in belgrade a while back. yes i'm still bitter about that. an out-dated map, what bullshit. a mis-fire, what crap.
posted by dai at 10:48 PM on August 28, 2001 [1 favorite]


If people insist on killing each other, it is of course better to limit the unintentional damage to a few injuries than to indiscriminately kill great masses

This is about how many more times more dangerous and inefficient than a bullet from an assassins rifle? Anyone care to guess?

Great masses weren't on the menu, just this particular guy. This is a lazy and messy assassination that could have easily gone wrong. The only benefit from a weapon like this is that's its quick compared to a conventional assassination. Once you get the intel on the location of the target you fly in, press a button, and reap the propaganda rewards.

As far as killing leaders only comment goes, go ahead. There will be hundreds ready and willing to take his place.
posted by skallas at 10:49 PM on August 28, 2001


Also, since when did the US and the world at large sanction the assasination of unpopular political leaders?
posted by benbrown at 10:52 PM on August 28, 2001


Of course you'd say it's 'amazing', semmi - it was used by the Israelis. If it was used by the other side, no doubt you'd call it 'cold-blooded murder, heinous and terrifying in its precision' and then wail about the dangers posed by shrapnel.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:02 PM on August 28, 2001


benbrown: And who said the U.S. did sanction the assasination, exactly? The missiles were made in the United States (private contractors, presumably), but were fired into a building filled with Americans - who, mind you, were unhurt but also lucky.
posted by raysmj at 11:05 PM on August 28, 2001


I note, in passing, that Jack Straw -- a man normally associated with heavy-handed law enforcement -- described that little bit of bravado as an "assassination".

holgate's 7am bit of cynicism: since the Israeli army seems to have a rather juvenile desire to show off its shiny military hardware, the world's arms dealers must love them. A guaranteed showcase for your latest helicopter gunship; who needs computer simulations or military exercises when you can have "tried and tested on the West Bank" in your sales literature?
posted by holgate at 11:13 PM on August 28, 2001


We paid for it, we sanctioned it. Period. Utterly despicable.
posted by Optamystic at 11:15 PM on August 28, 2001


note, in passing, that Jack Straw -- a man normally associated with heavy-handed law enforcement -- described that little bit of bravado as an "assassination".

I heard this on the radio yesterday and was going to post a link, but the beeb didn't post a story. However, I noticed that the BBC use the same word in their reports of the general Israeli policy (not just this one case).
posted by andrew cooke at 12:19 AM on August 29, 2001


It's not like nobody saw this coming. Here's a Lebanese article which examines the missile technology that was under development by the Israeli defense company Rafael.

Basically this is based on TOW anti-tank missile tech from the US. The "pinpoint accuracy" is largely because the helicopters use stealth mode (suppressed engine noise) to get as close as possible (perhaps the length of a football field), and then launch this small weapon with a laser or possibly (for very short distances) a fiber optic guidewire. They may have had a second helicopter or an informant on the ground nearby "painting" the window.

As for the Chinese embassy thing, it could have been a mistake, but it was widely reported that the building was targeted because of communications equipment supporting the Yugoslav defenses. Note that China has since then been smoked out assisting with the communications defense network of both Iraq and Sudan. I'm quite sure it was intended as a signal, no matter what public stance both countries took.
posted by dhartung at 1:07 AM on August 29, 2001


Oh, here's the Rafael press release and product page for the Gill-Spike-Dandy missile family. This could have been a fiber-optic non-line-of-sight deployment, but I'm still favoring my laser painting of target theory, or perhaps a smaller short-range weapon such as Helicoat (whose page touts its own "pinpoint" accuracy). They've already successfully sold these weapons to various armies (e.g. Finland).

Note the sales pages for their Low Intensity Conflict Systems ("Border Security and Coastal Control Surveillance System") and Equipment for Intervention Forces.
posted by dhartung at 1:21 AM on August 29, 2001


Argh... there is no such thing as "stealth mode" for helicopters or for anything... I cringed when I saw "Broken Arrow" where a B-2 bomber dissapeared off the radar at the push of a button. It does not work that way: stealth is stealth. Some stealth aircraft have radar beacons that they turn ON when civilian air control has to see them coming; it doesnt go the other way around.

And there is definitely not a mode where a helicopter becomes quieter magically: 90% of the noise from a chopper is aerodynamic, built-in to the design and cannot be helped.

My guess for this hit is a basic wire-guided missile driven by somone with infrared (wall-penetrating) goggles. The tech is current and widely-deployed.

(I used to be an Army Aviation officer and an aero engineer; I know my military hardware)
posted by costas at 1:31 AM on August 29, 2001


I've looked at a few of the links but I still can't figure out what "wire-guided" means. The best guess I can come up with (the missle is remote-controlled via a fiber-optic wire it trails behind it?) is still ridiculous.
posted by straight at 5:29 AM on August 29, 2001


Israeli intelligence figured out which window this guy would be behind, but did not know who else was in the building? Tell us another one.
posted by beagle at 5:30 AM on August 29, 2001


you know the nasty things those ignorant savage palestinian terrorists are saying about the united states? well, it's all true...
posted by quonsar at 5:44 AM on August 29, 2001


I think cowardly murder sounds better than assassination
posted by Mick at 6:07 AM on August 29, 2001


Also, since when did the US and the world at large sanction the assasination of unpopular political leaders?

I hope that was a joke. The US just loves to take out leaders with viewpoints that appear to be diametrically opposed to the current administration's.

Look at Cuba, Vietnam, pretty much all of central america during the 40's-60's
How about Iraq, Bosnia, Somalia, really the list is too long.

Having said all this I still support the practice, think of chess; a queen is worth a whole lot more (and a whole lot more powerful) than a pawn.
posted by Grok09 at 6:28 AM on August 29, 2001


Well I for one am certainly glad to see that the $3.3 BILLION in foreign aid that the US provides to Israel is going to good use. bah!!
posted by moses at 6:33 AM on August 29, 2001


"without harming the tenants". Sorry, but if I was a tenant in that building and I see a guy standing next to me get his head lopped off, I'm going to at least be mentally harmed by the incident. Hell, I'd be lucky not to have a heart attack right on the spot.
posted by kingmissile at 6:42 AM on August 29, 2001


I heard that the missle was fired by Blue Thunder.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 7:06 AM on August 29, 2001


Is it just me or does a missile seem a little over the top?
posted by dangerman at 7:10 AM on August 29, 2001


They should have used a titanium spork. Costs only $9.95. No, really, I am sickened by this. I mean, even the Bush administration came out yesterday and said that these targetted killings aren't going to do much good and only give rise to more fanaticism. This whole situation is just pitiful, and I wish I was more informed about the whole history and not just the pieces I pick out of the news (thank god for MeFi, eh?). Every time I try to make the smallest bit of sense regarding the situation something senseless happens. Maybe I should watch more Total Request Live and forget about the whole thing. End sarcastic defensive mechanism.
posted by adampsyche at 7:13 AM on August 29, 2001


costas: there is indeed such a thing as "quiet flight" mode for helicopters. I can only verify it for the Comanche class attack chopper, though. (Reduced RPM systems are going to be increasingly prevalent in commercial helicopters for airport environmental noise reduction.) You're correct in that the noise is mainly inherent in the design -- though the Apache's four-blade design was partly to have a lower noise signature or to direct it upward, and later subclasses have achieved even better quietness. In any case, my bad.

I certainly did not mean to imply radar invisibility, push-button or otherwise.

straight: wire-guided means just that. The rocket is connected to the firing source by a wire that unspools and allows for targeting and detonation control. The classic anti-tank weapon used by the US is called TOW: Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided. Yes, that wire today is most likely fiber optic and "thinner than a fishing line". What this capability does is permit precision targeting when you do not have guaranteed line-of-sight: for instance, a tank that is mainly inside a bunker. A guided weapon can also evade and fool countermeasures.
posted by dhartung at 7:28 AM on August 29, 2001


My favorite part is this:

"This is unacceptable. We're civilians here, we have children here. We have American passports."

Ratsafratsa... I mean, lady... do you think war stops for your silly little passport? I can just see this lady stomping across the border pushing soldiers out of her way and telling some General that this was "totally unacceptable" and that she was "thoroughly unsatisfied and wants her money back" and that she's "never going to shop here again... ever!"
posted by fusinski at 7:45 AM on August 29, 2001


Grok09: Much of what you say is true, but what leaders did the U.S. "take out" in Iraq and Bosnia? Also, what does it have to do with the topic at hand, an incident in which many Americans could easily have been killed? Neither leader in Iraq and Yugoslavia was assasinated anyway, as far as I remember.
posted by raysmj at 7:58 AM on August 29, 2001


Instant Mefi Poll (just add water...):

Compare your reaction to learning of Israel's elimination of this fellow to your reaction when you learned that the US had just bombed the Libyan Command Barracks (aka Khadafi's crib) way back in the 1980s (when life was so much more analog, if not simpler).

Are they different, and if so how and why (in 40 words or less, svp)
posted by BentPenguin at 8:04 AM on August 29, 2001


Compare your reaction to learning of Israel's elimination of this fellow to your reaction when you learned that the US had just bombed the Libyan Command Barracks.

My reaction back then was something like "Man, doesn't Cyndi Lauper's True Colors suck compared to She's So Unusual?" I was 15.
posted by jpoulos at 8:37 AM on August 29, 2001


raysmj
Attempts on Sadam's life have been numerous, just not successful. Whether or not they were direct attempts or simply US supported, I am not sure.
In Bosnia, Slobodan may or may not have been a target but NATO forces did take out division and battalion heads.

You are right that my comment doesnt have much to do with collateral damage (human, and otherwise) other than the fact that much of the killing in each of the afore mentioned conflicts took place in populated areas where in many cases non-combatants were living.
Expecting the Israeli govt to check the nationalities of anyone in the vicinity of a planned attack seems logistically impossible, dont you think?
posted by Grok09 at 8:50 AM on August 29, 2001


straight: wire-guided means just that. The rocket is connected to the firing source by a wire that unspools and allows for targeting and detonation control.

I guess it's not, but that seems insane to me. A rocket with a wire trailing behind it? Does it have really short range, or miles of wire? Why not just guide it by radio? What if the wire snags on something?
posted by straight at 9:17 AM on August 29, 2001


Bravo Israel. I remember the bomber who got an ounce of c-4 placed in his phone(Palestinian) that was beautiful. I smell flames all around this post. I support Israel wacking these slime balls. f#&# them. Anyone live in Israel? Saddam cannot be hit from the outside because he has at least ten motorcades when he departs. (anyone can be killed, it is just a matter of how bad someone wants him dead) ((i do not think saddam is worth the 10 million$ on his head.))
posted by clavdivs at 9:19 AM on August 29, 2001


With weapons like these, at some point, the PA's "leadership" will realize they're marked men. Then the suicide bombing will "mysteriously cease (or the PA will cease to exist).
posted by ParisParamus at 9:31 AM on August 29, 2001


I'm still left with one question. If these missles are so accurate, why did they have to fire TWO? Gives something of an air to the story of a media-beatup.
posted by Option1 at 9:32 AM on August 29, 2001


The man assassinated was a moderate who returned to Palestine to participate in the Oslo peace accords. He posed little or no danger to Israel, even the 'string of bombings' they accused him of co-ordinating did not result in any casualties. Most the use of 'this amazing weapon' in a building full of civilians was meant as a symbolic gesture. Check out this article from an Israeli paper for more information.

One of the more interesting aspects of the article is that thanks to the assassination, the new leader of the PFLP will likely be a hardliner. Kind of like how to punish the Palestinians for not policing militants they blow up and bulldoze their police stations.
posted by cell divide at 9:33 AM on August 29, 2001


Sorry we blew your apartment up to kill one guy who was sitting on his butt.

Yes, some innocent people got hurt. But how many people might have died had Zibri been allowed to live? Zibri, a moderate? Judge for yourself...

Zibri's organization, known as the PFLP, pioneered airline hijackings in the 1970s and more recently had taken responsibility for roadside bombs and mortar attacks in the 11-month-old Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli officials said he also masterminded the formation of terrorist cells that have carried out car bombings in Jerusalem and elsewhere, although none has resulted in deaths.. [Recently he] became leader of the second-largest group in the Palestine Liberation Organization, after Arafat's own Fatah group.

My knowledge of this issue is incomplete, so I welcome any corrective comments. But it seems to me that Zibri is only classified as "moderate" because he's making peace-like noises (real or otherwise)... and because everybody else is so extreme. Next to Jeffrey Dahmer, O.J. Simpson is also moderate becuase he's only killed 2 people.

Yasser Arafat called Zibri an "outstanding leader". In retaliation for Zibri's death, the PLFP (the organization which Zibri had just begun to lead) assassinated a random Israeli off of the streets.

The question of whether or not the assassination of Zibri was wise is well beyond the judgement of most everyone on this board. Until you've lived in a war zone, you're not qualified to judge this sort of action; besides, there's a good chance that we don't know all of the facts here.

However, wise or foolish, it seems clear to me that this assignation is justifiable. Israel is engaged in a war, and I fully support the targeted killing of leaders, even absent combat or as retribution for past actions, as an alternative to the indiscriminate killing of soldiers. Further, I echo Moz's sentiments.
posted by gd779 at 9:51 AM on August 29, 2001


It's wonderful that Mefi is no longer the province of one-sided discussions on this subject! Amen.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:01 AM on August 29, 2001


The question of whether or not the assassination of Zibri was wise is well beyond the judgement of most everyone on this board

It does seem somewhat ridiculous to sit here and talk about obscure factions (using ther initials no less) and leaders no one probably has heard of until recently. Maybe we should leave it up the governments of the world, all of whom (that have weighed in on this issue including Israel's only true ally, the United States) have condemned the practice and the specific assassination. Or we could just leave it up the Geneva convention and International Law, but then again they don't seem to have much sway over there.
posted by cell divide at 10:05 AM on August 29, 2001


But how many people might have died had Zibri been allowed to live?

Two years ago Zibri was allowed by Israel to return to the country -- so obviously he wasn't considered much of a threat then. Maybe the whole story isn't evident from this after-the-fact effort to justify Israel's dangerous assassination in an apartment building filled with families and children.
posted by rcade at 10:22 AM on August 29, 2001


look at the message, not the messenger
posted by clavdivs at 10:53 AM on August 29, 2001


clavdivs has a point.
posted by gd779 at 10:55 AM on August 29, 2001


clavdivs has a point.
posted by gd779 at 10:55 AM on August 29, 2001


Two years ago, the Israeli government was under great pressure from Washington (and by a myopic Prime Minister) to come to a deal with YA. I think this partially explains the release of the man in questions. Moreover, at that time, Israel was still hopeful that YA and the PA were not the fraud they have now been proven to be.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:20 AM on August 29, 2001


murder. totally awesome brah.
posted by Satapher at 3:23 PM on August 29, 2001


"ridiculous ... that Israelis ... who live in a religious state, are firing missiles at individuals sitting at desks in crowded apartment buildings... the term "unintended casualties" just makes me sick. Oops! ... Sorry we killed your mom by accident.

[I'm] one step closer to thinking we should turn all of the 'holy land' into a parking lot."

-benbrown


Ben:

a) Unintended civilian casualties are tragic but INTENDED civilian tragedies (PA suicide bombings) are another level of reprehensible, and call for retaliation. If our friends were getting blown up at discos and pizza joints we'd expect someone to put a stop to it too.

b) Don't you suppose turning it all into a parking lot might kill a few innocent moms too?
posted by Tubes at 3:49 PM on August 29, 2001


The U.S. is providing military aid to a country that actually thinks of it's population as "God's Chosen People". Did you get that? The Israeli gov't believes that whatever brutality they stoop to is just peachy in the eyes of the Supreme Being. That doesn't seem like an attitude that's likely to breed much in the way of introspection.

Yes, I know. The other side does some messed up stuff too. But I don't recall buying them any Apache gunships lately. I believe we should cut off every single nickel of funding to Israel until this stupidity ends. Even better, let's embargo both countries. Get a little Helms/Burton style tough love going on. Something tells me we'd see some renewed interest in the peace process rather quickly. If not, let these two groups of fanatics fight it out like the superstitious yokels that they are.

If we take away the military imbalance, then Israel may actually have to back up its claim of being Chosen by God. I wonder if the Rabbis still remember the recipe for conjuring up Divine Fire to Smite the Enemies of The Beloved Children of Yaweh.
posted by Optamystic at 6:36 PM on August 29, 2001


"The Israeli gov't believes that whatever brutality they stoop to is just peachy in the eyes of the Supreme Being" the average Israeli doesnt feel this way. Heres a thought: Circled wagons. its about killing the enemy.
posted by clavdivs at 7:40 PM on August 29, 2001


It's a war, of course it's about "killing the enemy". Big deal. Why does my tax money have to subsidize a particular side in that war? The Israelis are just as stupid and brutal as the Palestinians. Probably more so, because they're better financed. The "Little Nation That Could" schtick is wearing mighty thin. Sure, in 1948 were a ragtag bunch of people who had been brutally oppressed and were in need of U.S. aid and protection. But now, they're acting like a bunch of militaristic yahoos. And they're doing it with MY money. So I call "Foul".
posted by Optamystic at 7:54 PM on August 29, 2001


"Unintended civilian casualties" but what if you know there is a good chance they will occur, you are almost certain of it.

And why is everyone so keen to compare the Israeli government with a group of extreme, fanatical Muslim terrorists? Until Israel started killing unarmed civilians, these groups were really not that popular.

If I were an Israeli, I would be ashamed to have a government that can even be put in the position to be compared like that.
posted by chaz at 11:15 PM on August 29, 2001


dhartung: I am aware of the Comanche. You should know though that in aero circles the Comanche has lost credibility; it's over-budget, way over schedule and probably too expensive for what it's needed for.

My office in the Army used to be in an Apache hangar. I am familiar with these birds. One thing that they are not is quiet. Are they quieter than a Huey or a Chinook? yes. Are they quieter than a 3-ton truck with a punctured muffler? if the wind is blowing in the right direction, maybe.

Personally, I found the Chinook quieter head-on, i.e. when you are standing on the axis created by the two rotor shafts. Obviously, the counter-rotating rotors do some noise cancellation of each other's noise. It's eerie when you're just standing there next to a bus-size chopper and then it turns slightly and the noise goes down like half.

There is one thing you need to have to make a helicopter quite: swept-back blades. The Apache/Comanche have those near the tips, but noone yet has been able to manufacture a blade that sweeps more with the distance from the shaft --i.e. one that will end up looking like a ninja-star almost. There are yet no materials that can have that shape and hold a few tons of aluminum and electronics aloft. Yet.

There are other things people are trying: micro-actuators on the blade itself (think millions of tiny levers on the blade surface) to minimize the shock wave hitting the blade --that's what's making all the noise-- and active noise cancellation --think "Apocalypse Now", only instead of the Valkyries, the megaphones are playing the chopper's own noise, inverted.

My guess is that the Israelis used a regular old chopper. But I am also guessing that the poor residents of the area (Israelis and Palestinians alike) are so used to military choppers flying overhead, that noone paid any attention. Until the door opened and someone fired a missile at an apartment building.

Now, that's stealth for you: war becomes routine, you dont notice warplanes flying into your neighborhood, the same way you don't notice that drunkard in the same subway car.
posted by costas at 2:32 AM on August 30, 2001


And why is everyone so keen to compare the Israeli government with a group of extreme, fanatical Muslim terrorists? Until Israel started killing unarmed civilians, these groups were really not that popular.

Hello? The guy was implicated in a number of terrorist acts and he promised to carry out additional ones. 90% of international condemnation against Israel, including that by the US, is as deep as those countries' desire to sell things to Arab states and get oil. It's meaningless, whore-like opposition.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:09 AM on August 30, 2001


Increasingly, it seems that the difference between a "terrorist attack" and a legitimate "act of war" is decided by U.S. policies toward the nations in question. I trust there's no need to remind you how inconsistent, shortsighted, and brutal these policies have been in the past, and will, no doubt, continue to be in the future.
posted by Optamystic at 5:15 AM on August 30, 2001


I think the guy who was taken out deserved to be taken out. He invited it. He was asking for it. He deserved it.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:48 AM on August 30, 2001


As soon as I saw this post, I knew it had to be about Israeli aggression. After all, who would call a weapon "amazing" if it was used by the Serbs to kill Kosovars, or by the Rwandans Hutsis, or by Russia to kill Chechen fighters. No, 'amazing' only applies to weapons used by the US and its allies. It reminds me of the whole techno-ponography of gleaming jet fighters and attack helicopters. We are encouraged to be delighted by them, picture ourselves inside them when we really have more in common with the people on the ground who are being attacked. I wonder how 'amazing' it would be if the Palestinians attacked the Likud.

As for comments like this

I think the guy who was taken out deserved to be taken out. He invited it. He was asking for it. He deserved it.

I can only hope that it was ironic. I could argue that the NATO leaders who systematically bombed Belgrade were 'asking for it' if a Serb militant bombed Clinton's office or 10 Downing St. But as the old saying goes, opinions are like assholes (everybody's got one).
posted by fellorwaspushed at 8:27 AM on August 30, 2001


I think the guy who was taken out deserved to be taken out. He invited it. He was asking for it. He deserved it.

No irony. After I read about the guy's background, I cheered the act.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:54 AM on August 30, 2001


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