JERUSALEM — Israeli jet fighters have flown 500 bombing missions in its offensive against Gaza-based Hamas, a senior officer said Wednesday. There have also been hundreds of combat sorties by helicopter gunships and surveillance aircraft, both manned and unmanned.
The targets included command posts of the Islamic militant movement, about 130 missile launch sites, munitions dumps and individuals who appeared to be carrying weapons. Also among them was a Hamas center, the Islamic University, which the officer described as a weapons research facility.
He said 95 percent of the targets were hit, and no major targets remained standing.
Describing a typical mission, the officer said it often begins when spy planes identify trucks or fighters transporting what could be a missile launcher.
Information on the target is fed into the command center, where a commander clears the mission. The data is relayed to the weapons system on board an F16 jet fighter, which plots the target. The pilot flies into position, and the bomb is released automatically, guided by laser beam onto the missile launcher.
“Just like a GPS telling you exactly where you are, we know exactly where the target is,” he said.
Since the air strikes began Saturday, most of the nearly 400 casualties have been Hamas fighters or officials, but dozens of civilians also have been killed. Seeking to avoid civilian casualties, he said, an automated telephone service dials the phones of residents of a targeted building, warning them to evacuate. He shrugged when asked how Israel obtained the numbers.