New UK drone ‘field tested’ on Palestinians, says charity

By agency reporter
12 Dec 2013

The new Watchkeeper drone being developed for the UK military is based on a model that Israel has ‘field tested’ in attacks on Gaza which left many Palestinians dead, including children, says War on Want.

The charity made this warning yesterday (12 December) in a report that demands the British government and the European Union end their support for Israeli violations of human rights and impose a two-way arms embargo.

The report points to boasts from Haifa firm Elbit Systems about its drones’ lethal power in Gaza and notes that over 800 Palestinians have been reported dead in Israeli drone raids.

Just over a year ago, Israeli drone strikes on Gaza killed 36 people. The mother of 12-year-old victim, Mamoun Aldam, said: “I held my Mamoun in my arms when he died and everything felt destroyed for me. I hope that he is the last child to be killed in Palestine.”

The UK Ministry of Defence awarded a near £1 billion contract for the new Watchkeeper drone to a joint venture between Elbit and its commercial partner, Thales UK.

The joint venture, UAV Tactical Systems, operates the overall Watchkeeper programme from its facility in Leicester, with work subcontracted to a host of other British companies.

The design and technology of the Watchkeeper is based closely on Elbit’s Hermes 450 model, which Israel has used extensively over Gaza.

Current British plans earmark the Watchkeeper for surveillance, but reports suggest the Royal Artillery hopes the drone will be able to launch weapons.

War on Want senior campaigns officer, Rafeef Ziadah, said: “By supporting the arms trade with Israeli companies, the British government is sending a clear message of approval for Israel’s aggression against the Palestinian people. The European Union is sending a similar message through its research funding for Israeli arms companies. It is high time both the UK and the EU ended their support for Israel’s violations of international law.”

Ministers from the previous UK government rejected Israeli assurances that UK arms would not be deployed against civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. However, the current administration now has 381 extant arms licences to Israel, worth £7.8 billion.

Elbit and other Israeli defence firms receive research subsidies from the European Union’s multibillion security research programme.

The War on Want report comes days before scheduled discussions on defence and security issues at the European Council summit in Brussels (19-20 December).

* The report can be downloaded here (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://www.waronwant.org/attachments/Killer%20Drones,%20War%20on%20Want.pdf

[Ekk/4]

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