‘Anarchist’ hacks Israeli drones

Mary Dobbing, co-author of Drone Wars’ briefing on Israel and the drone wars, looks at the implications of the recent news that US and British spooks hacked Israeli drone feeds.

Image of Heron TP drone - Credit: Laura Poitras/The Intercept
Image of Heron TP drone – Credit: Laura Poitras/The Intercept

The United States and Britain have been hacking into Israeli drone signals and video feeds since 1998 we have learned from latest publication of leaks from former US NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The details were published by The Intercept at the end of January. “This is an earthquake, the worst leak in the history of Israeli intelligence” shouted the headline in The Times of Israel quoting “a security source”. The information hacked related to video feeds and routes-over-the-ground that the drones were flying. Read more

Europe condemns civilian casualties in Gaza while procuring Israeli ‘combat proven’ drones

Israeli-airstrikeAs Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, named ‘Operation Protective Edge’, enters its second week, Palestinian casualties have reached 168 and continue to mount according to the latest UN figures. Israeli casualties are so far nil. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said of these Palestinian casualties “80 per cent of the fatalities (133) have been civilians, of whom 21 per cent (36) are children, raising concerns about respect for international humanitarian law.” The Palestinian Ministry of Health reports that 1,140 Palestinians, including 296 children and 233 women have also been injured. As well as this, OCHA estimate 25,300 children whose families have experienced death, injury or loss of homes are in need of psychosocial support. Read more

Israel and the Drone Wars – New Briefing from Drone Wars UK

Click to download
Click image to download

Drone Wars UK is today publishing a new briefing focusing on the use of drones by Israel, the only other country besides the US and the UK to have used armed drones.

Israel and the Drone Wars: Examining Israel’s production, use and proliferation of UAVs’ scrutinizes Israel’s 40 years of military drone use, the devastating effects of drone operations in Gaza, and Israel’s burgeoning drone exports.

While its drone use is shrouded in secrecy – Israel has never publicly admitted to the use of armed drones – DWUK’s research pieces together the evidence and describes the human cost to Palestinians living in what campaigners have characterized as a ‘test zone’ for drone warfare. Nader Elkhuzundar, for example, a Palestinian from Gaza interviewed by Drone Wars UK, tells of the fear instilled by the constant noise of drones flying overhead. Read more

HRW: Israeli drone strikes killed Palestinian civilians and violated laws of war

A woman sitting in rubble after her Rafah home was flattened by an Israeli strike. Photo: AP
A woman sitting in rubble after her Rafah home was flattened by an Israeli strike. Photo: AP

Yesterday Human Rights Watch (HRW) released important information detailing 18 separate airstrikes by drones and other aircraft during ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’ in November 2012  which appeared to violate the laws of war.  At least 43 civilians including 12 children were killed in the airstrikes.

The report provides rare detail into the impact of the use of Israeli drones but shockingly has so far received almost no Read more

Gaza under drones

One week after a ceasefire came into effect, it is not yet possible to detail with any certainty the use of drones in the latest Israeli war on Gaza.  As well as armed drones, Israel used F-16s, Apache helicopters, tanks and ships to launch over 1,500 strikes on Gaza during its latest eight-day war. However according to one Israeli military source the use of drones during ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’ was “unprecedented“.

The bombardment of Gaza opened with the targeted killing of Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari  by what appeared to be an Israeli drone.  Footage of the assassination of Jabari – who was reportedly involved in ongoing peace negotiations – was posted immediately to YouTube  and began an on-line social-networking war. Read more

British Drones – the Israeli connection

Joint British-Israeli Watchkeeper drone in test flight at Aberporth

While the UK  is developing its own “sovereign” drones at BAE Systems and using Reaper drones bought from the US, there is also a strong Israeli connection as the UK are leasing Israeli drones for use in Afghanistan and also jointly developing a new surveillance drone called Watchkeeper. 

Israel is the world’s leading exporter of drones with more than 1,000 sold to different countries netting Israel around $350m a year.    Israel’s primary combat drones are the Hermes, produced by Israeli company Elbit Systems Ltd, and the Heron produced by Israeli Aerospace Industries.   According to Ed Kinkane in the Palestine Chronicle “as far back as 1982 Israel used drones against Syria. In the early nineties Israeli drones were used in the Kosovo campaign and Israeli drones invaded the skies over Lebanon and patrol occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza”.   A recent Human Rights Watch report details the use of armed drones by Israel in Gaza.

In October 2005 the UK government awarded a $500m contract to UAV Tactical Systems Ltd. (U-Tacs) a joint venture company  formed by Thales UK and Israeli company Elbit Systems, based in Leicester,  to build up to 100 Watchkeeper UAVs.    Watchkeeper is a derivative of the  Israeli Hermes 450 drone but differs in having an automatic landing capability and multiple payload configuration.   

In April 2010, Elbit announced that it had signed a $70 million deal to provide maintenance and logistical support for the Watchkeeper project. The announcement came the very day the Watchkeeper drone made its maiden test flight, logging 20 minutes in the air in Wales.

Since July 2007, the UK has also been leasing Israeli Hermes 450 from Thales UK in an innovative ‘pay by the hour’ contract  for use in Afghanistan until the Watchkeepers are in service.   By April 2010, the leased drones had flown more than 30,000 hours over Afghanistan and the contract is likely to be extended until the Watchkeeper drones are ready to go into service in 2011