A week ago, a US air strike that officials (speaking off-the-record) acknowledged was carried out by a Reaper drone, killed senior Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and up to 10 others, travelling in a two-car convoy outside Baghdad airport. The targeted killing of a senior Iranian military officer sent shock waves around the globe and appalled many. International law scholars argued strongly that the strike was unlawful, politicians and diplomats articulated the dangerous impact both locally, regionally and internationally and military officials braced themselves for the inevitable retaliation. Read more
Five years ago, Drone Wars published a ground breaking report examining Israel’s production, use and proliferation of military drones. Today we are pleased to publish ‘Precise Strikes: Fractured Bodies, Fractured Lives’ which brings our 2014 report up-to-date. The report looks beyond the veil of secrecy that surrounds Israel’s development and deployment of armed drones to explore their use and impact, particularly in Gaza in the five years since 2014.
Israel has been manufacturing and using unmanned military technology since the 1970s. Yet its use of drones to launch attacks continues to be shrouded in secrecy and denial. This despite clear evidence, including leaked video footage, that Israel has used drones both for reconnaissance and monitoring purposes, as well as to launch attacks. According to Ha’aretz, drones now account for 70% of the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) flight hours.
While advocates present drones in humanitarian terms as effectively minimising civilian casualties in so-called ‘virtuous wars’, serious concerns have been raised by human rights organisations, UN Special Rapporteurs, survivors of drone attacks, and national parliaments. The lived experience of drone warfare in Palestine highlights the cost to life and human rights of remote-controlled weaponry, indicating that discourses of precision and risk-reduction do little to convey the terror and threat of omnipresent overhead drones. Read more
In December 2017 the RAF announced that British Reaper drones had reached the significant milestone of flying 100,000 hours of combat operations. First deployed in Afghanistan in 2007 and, on operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria since 2014, the UK’s Reapers have been continuously engaged in surveillance and strike operations for a decade. However, with the collapse of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, ten years of continuous drone operations should be coming to an end. But statements by British government ministers as well as senior military officers indicate that the UK wants its Reapers to continue to fly, seemingly indefinitely. Read more
Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has published its report into the intelligence basis of the UK’s 2015 drone targeted killing of Reyaad Khan in Syria in August 2015. The report has been heavily censored by the government before release and, due to the calling of a general election, the Committee says it cannot push back against the amount of redactions that have been imposed on it . Read more
Soon after it had been re-constituted in the new parliament, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) issued a statement in October 2015 saying that an investigation into the drone strikes in which British nationals were killed was an “immediate priority”.
Fifteen months later, in December 2016, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) put a short note on its website saying that it had handed over its report, UK Lethal Drone Strikes in Syria, to the Prime Minister after completing its inquiry and expected a redacted version would be published in the New Year. Four months later we are still waiting. Read more
One year ago this weekend (on 21 Aug) an RAF pilot sitting in a Ground Control Station at RAF Waddington pushed a button and Hellfire missiles flashed away from a British Reaper drone loitering a few miles from Raqqa in Northern Syria. The missiles slammed into an SUV killing all three occupants. What was said in the Ground Control Station at the time is not publicly known but, as a senior British military officer put it a few months later, a Rubicon had been crossed. Read more