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Precision strike on Hamas sparks speculation about Israeli ‘ninja missiles’

A bombed-out car in the Gaza Strip has sparked speculation that Israel has developed its own version of America’s six-bladed ‘ninja missiles’.

The car – a while Citroen Xsara – was blown up in a strike by the Israeli air force on Tuesday to the west of Gaza City in an attack the IDF said targeted operatives of a Hamas ‘suicide submarine’. 

Video of the strike, released by the IDF, shows the driver’s side of the car being struck by a missile which blows out the windows and doors but otherwise leaves the vehicle intact as it rolls to a stop on a nearby roundabout.

The pattern of damage is similar, though not identical to, damage caused by R9X ‘ninja missiles’ – dud Hellfire rockets that use a combination of sheer force and six long blades to shred targets and have been used by the US in Lybia, Syria and Iraq. 

That has raised questions over whether the Israeli military, with its strong ties to the US, has been able to develop its own version of the missile. 

A precision strike on what the IDF described as a Hamas terrorist involved in a ‘suicide submarine’ attack killed the man, but left his car largely intact

The pattern of damage, similar to that seen in CIA and Pentagon strikes using 'ninja missiles', has sparked speculation that the IDF has developed a similar weapon

The pattern of damage, similar to that seen in CIA and Pentagon strikes using ‘ninja missiles’, has sparked speculation that the IDF has developed a similar weapon

The strike blew out the car's windows, doors and roof, but without destroying the vehicle and left two cars parked nearby with only moderate damage

The strike blew out the car’s windows, doors and roof, but without destroying the vehicle and left two cars parked nearby with only moderate damage

‘Ninja missile’ strikes – often against vehicles – are distinctive because the car typically remains intact with only a small hole or holes caused by the missile.

The hole itself is often star shaped because the uses six blades that extend from the sides of the rocket to slice through its target – hence its nickname.

Because the missile’s warhead is inert – meaning non-explosive – targeted vehicles usually do not show signs of blast damage, such as blown-out windows or doors.

That is not the case with the strike in Gaza, since the car’s roof, front doors and boot have clearly been bent outwards by a small explosion.

Two parked vehicles that were close to the strike also had their windows either fully or partially blown out with the force, with shrapnel damage visible across their bodywork and tyres blown out.  

IDF footage also shows a small explosion partially destroying the vehicle.

But the damage is far less extensive than would be expected from a strike using a conventional missile, which has caused speculation online.

IDF footage of the strike shows the car drive off down the street before the missile strikes, after which it rolls to a stop at a roundabout

IDF footage of the strike shows the car drive off down the street before the missile strikes, after which it rolls to a stop at a roundabout

Footage captured by Palestinian media showed people rushing to help the car's occupant after the blast, though it is thought the sole occupant was killed

Footage captured by Palestinian media showed people rushing to help the car’s occupant after the blast, though it is thought the sole occupant was killed

Kyle Glen, an open-source intelligence analyst and co-founder of the Twitter feed Conflict News, wrote: ‘1 killed after an airstrike targeted a car in Western Gaza. Impressive precision. 

‘Reminds me of the R9X strikes in Syria but as far as I know, Israel do not possess them.’

Coupsure, another open-source intelligence Twitter feed in French, added to the speculation, writing: ‘It is interesting to note that there is very little damage in the surroundings. 

‘I think they used a missile similar to the R9X or a missile with a very small explosive charge.’ 

MailOnline has reached out to the Israeli defence ministry but had not received a response prior to publication.

The R9X, a modified version of the better-known Hellfire missile, was developed during Obama’s presidency amid concerns over the number of civilians being killed in drone strike campaigns in the Middle East.

The R9X is a modified version of the precision Hellfire missile which carries a non-explosive warhead filled with 45kg of metal and six ejecting blades designed to shred its target

The R9X is a modified version of the precision Hellfire missile which carries a non-explosive warhead filled with 45kg of metal and six ejecting blades designed to shred its target

Strikes using ninja missiles are distinctive because they leave vehicles intact with star-shaped damage marks caused by the blades (pictured, a 'ninja missile' attack in Syria in 2020)

Strikes using ninja missiles are distinctive because they leave vehicles intact with star-shaped damage marks caused by the blades (pictured, a ‘ninja missile’ attack in Syria in 2020)

The first known attack using a R9X missile was to kill deputy leader of Al-Qaeda Abu Khayr al-Masri in February 2017 (above)

The first known attack using a R9X missile was to kill deputy leader of Al-Qaeda Abu Khayr al-Masri in February 2017 (above)

It was also developed in response to tactics by terrorists who took to hiding among women and children in the hopes they would not be targeted.

The weapon consists of a typical Hellfire missile with its laser targeting system, but with the explosive warhead replaced by 45kg of metal designed to crush the target.

Six blades are also hidden in the missile’s fuselage which extend moments before it strikes the target, allowing it to shred through vehicles.

Under development since 2011, the first known use of the missile was in 2017 to kill the deputy leader of Al-Qaeda, Abu Khayr al-Masri in Syria.

It was used in a number of other strikes that year across Libya, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia, and again in 2019 in Afghanistan.

The aim of the weapon – also known as the ‘Flying Ginsu’ after a famous brand of knives – is to be able to kill a terrorist target in a car without harming the driver, or to kill someone at the dinner table without harming others sitting with them.

Obama had reportedly considered using an R9X to kill Osama Bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011 – though he eventually decided to send in a Navy SEAL team instead. 




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