Palestinian terrorists in Gaza are using Google Earth to help plan their attacks on Israeli military and civilian targets, the Guardian reported Thursday.
The UK-based newspaper quoted members of Fatah's armed wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, as saying that 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," Khaled Jaabari, the group's commander in Gaza who is known as Abu Walid, told the Guardian.
According to the Guardian, Abu Walid presented an aerial image of the Israeli town of Sderot on his computer to demonstrate how his group searches for targets.
Abu Walid told the newspaper there was no contradiction between his group's actions and talk of peace by Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.
'Imagery visible on Google Earth not unique'
He added that the group had modified the homemade rockets to travel longer distances by cultivating salt from the sea.
"It's a secret process, but we're very excited by the results," Abu Walid was quoted by the Guardian as saying.
According to the report, some defense experts have said the easy availability of information on the internet 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," British military spokesman Major Charlie Burbridge was quoted as saying earlier this year.
The Guardian said that in January British officials claimed that 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.
When asked by the Guardian about the use of Google Earth by al-Aqsa militants, Google said it was aware of potential problems, but would not comment specifically on the case.
"We have paid close attention to concerns that Google Earth creates new security risks," said the company 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. Indeed, anyone who flies above or drives by a piece of property can obtain similar information."