Israel trains British Army to operate drones; Amnesty International objects

LONDON — Israel is said to have trained the British Army in unmanned aerial vehicles.

Amnesty International asserted that British Army personnel have been training in Israel on UAVs deployed in the Gaza Strip. The London-based human rights group said the British Army was learning how to use Israeli UAVs in counter-insurgency operations.

“It would seem wholly inappropriate for UK forces to be trained in the use of drones by a country with a track record of applying this technology in grave abuses of people’s human rights,” Amnestry director Tim Hancock said.

The British Army has ordered at least 30 Israeli-origin UAVs under the Watchkeeper program, the prime contractor of which was identified as Thales UK. The platform, called WK-450, has been based on the Hermes-450 UAV, produced by Israel’s Elbit System. In an interim measure, the British Army has ordered the Hermes-450 for its contingent in the NATO stabilization mission in Afghanistan.

Amnesty said the Israeli military deployed the Hermes-450 during the war against Hamas in 2009. The organization did not detail the operations of the Hermes in the Gaza Strip.

“Amnesty International has documented the role of drones in serious human rights violations by the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza,” Hancock told Britain’s Sky News television. “There is already growing international concern over the use of drones in remote unlawful killings, sometimes amounting to extrajudicial executions.”

Palestinians have accused Israel of using its UAVs in attack operations in the Gaza Strip. They said unidentified Israeli unmanned platforms have fired small rockets at Hamas and other targets.

The British government has acknowledged that the British military was training in Israel on UAVs. A government statement said the British Army would receive a non-combat version of the Hermes-450.

“Small numbers of British forces travel to Israel for contractor-provided pre-deployment training on the unarmed Hermes 450 UAV and its Watchkeeper replacement,” the British statement said. “Our absolute priority is ensuring British troops on the frontline are equipped with and trained on the very best capabilities. UAV systems provide vital intelligence and surveillance, enhancing situational awareness on the battlefield and helping to save the lives of UK forces.”

Israel trains British Army to operate drones; Amnesty International objects.

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