A bloody month in the drone wars: 7 separate drone strikes kill dozens of civilians across 4 war zones

November 2019 saw seven civilian casualties incidents from drone strikes in four different war-zones illustrating the growing spread of drone warfare. The seven strikes between them are thought to have killed  41 civilians including 11 children.

Proponents of the use of armed drones often argue that drones are better at warfare as they can  sit above the ‘fog and friction’ of war and therefore limit the harm to civilians as they have a better view of the ground.  The reality, however, is that drones appear to be transferring the risk of warfare away from combatants onto the shoulders of civilians.

These seven strikes in the month of November are just a snapshot of the impact of drone warfare on civilians.  However, the likelihood is that civilians will continue to be killed unless there is progress at the international level on controlling the proliferation and use of armed drones.

Afghanistan: 3rd November; 28th November

Two civilian casualty reports from US drone strikes occurred in Afghanistan. The first, reported by the New York Times in their War Casualty Report for November 2019 simply states that on November 3rd 6 villagers grazing cattle and collecting wood were killed. No other details are currently available.


The second, details another horrific casualty incident on 28th November in which five people returning from a local clinic after a woman had recently given birth were killed.

Syria: 9th November; 20th November

In Syria, drones operated by Turkish armed forces were reported to have killed civilians on two occasions during the month.  Airwars details that on  9th November a group of five civilians picking cotton were struck, killing two and injuring five.

In separate Turkish drone strike on 20th November, Airwars reports:

Libya: 18th November; 28th November

Drones are being used by both sides in the civil war in Libya.  Two separate strikes undertaken by United Arab Emirates (UAE) drones operated on behalf of Khalifa Hafter’s so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) are reported to be responsible for two devastating civilian casualty incidents.  The first, on 18th November killed 10 migrant workers in a biscuit factory

Ten days later, on 28th November according to local reports, a family of  displaced migrant workers including 6 children were killed in another reported UAE drone strike along with 2 workers delivering water to displaced families

Gaza: 13th November

The Israel armed forces admitted to killing eight members of a Palestinian family in Gaza on 13th November in a strike thought to have been undertaken by a drone.  The strike was one of a number of Israeli air strikes which killed civilians following Palestinian militant rocket attacks in response to the Israeli targeted assassination of an Islamic Jihad commander. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the victims of the Israeli strike as Rasmi al-Sawarkah, 45; his son Muhannad, 12; Maryam, 45; Muath Mohammed, 7; Wasim Mohammed, 13; Yousra, 39; and two toddlers whose bodies were dug up from the debris on Thursday morning and whose names haven’t been released.


It should not need saying, of course, that civilian casualties from drone strikes are not limited to the month of November and these four war zones alone.  In the previous two months drones operated by the Turkey’s armed forces killed civilians in Kurdish province in Northern Iraq in September; 30 pine nut farmers were also killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan in September, and a US drone strike in Somalia killed two farmers in October.

  • For much, much more detail on civilian casualties arising from air and drone strikes see the excellent work of Airwars and TBIJ 

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