Eye in the Sky: Surveillance Balloons Watching Rioters in East Jerusalem

Three operating now, two more to come; police used footage to bust youngsters throwing stones at light rail.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Surveillance balloon in Singapore.Credit: Ng Eng Hen's Facebook page
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The Jerusalem municipality said this week that it was deploying three surveillance balloons over East Jerusalem to aid police in stopping Palestinian rioting. Two more balloons will soon be added as part of a new municipal unit for aerial surveillance.

The balloons have been hovering high above hot spots on the capital's eastside – the Shoafat neighborhood, the light rail route, and Jewish enclaves within Arab neighborhoods.

Footage taken by the balloons is being transmitted to the police "war room," and will also be sent to a unit to be established in the municipality's Emergency Defense Department.

The balloons are on the lookout for clashes, preparations for stone-throwing, tossing of firecrachers and other violent acts. Police use the footage to arrest suspected rioters and gather evidence against them. Aided by such footage, police last week arrested Palestinian youngsters suspected of throwing stones at the light rail.

The idea for the unit was Mayor Nir Barkat's, and the intention is to staff it with demobilized IDF soldiers having experience in balloon surveillance. Later Barkat intends to deploy the unit against illegal dumping of industrial waste, construction law violations and other crimes in the city.

"The new surveillance unit we've created will be the municipality's lead operational arm, allowing us to aid the police and security forces in real time, and to enforce law and order in the city by locating violations in an rapid, efficient manner," Barkat said.