Archive for category Gaza

Drones use acknowledged in Gaza Attacks

Israel as been somewhat circumspect with respect to its use of drones in a number of attacks on its neighbours, though most people know that drones have been a significant part of its armed forces. Israeli drone companies have bragged about their drones being ‘combat tested’, without specifying in exactly which combat.

This changed with Operation Protective Edge, the brutal and murderous campaign against Gaza in the summer of 2014. In Protective edge 2192 Palestinians died at the hands of Israeli attackers, 504 of them children. Since then there have been many official acknowledgements of drone use.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon announced that the Israeli military had been restructured to add more unmanned systems (drones). The Israel military has always been integrated with its arms industry, both supporting each other. After Protective Edge, the newspaper Ha’aretz reported that the ‘operation had offered the opportunity to showcase some of Israel’s technological advancements’. Ha’aetz reported that both Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 drones were used in Protective Edge.

Defense News reported Israeli commanders praising the Hermes 900 as an improvement over the Hermes 450. Though Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 drones are widely believed to be armed, Israeli commanders didn’t confirm that. They did, however, praise the smaller Skylark drones, which streamed target acquisition information to ‘a myriad of shooters on the ground’.

i-HLS has reported that both Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 drones were flown from Palmachim air base and were used round the clock in operations against Gaza. Hermes 900 also has a marine surveillance version that may be used in the ongoing campaign of harassment against Gaza fishermen.

Most of the drones (85%) used by the Israeli military are provided by Elbit Systems, according to IsraelDefense.

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Canada’s Involvement with Israeli drone companies.

(This is an incomplete research note. Because Canada is considering purchase of military drones and the announcement could come at any time, I thought that it was important to start publishing as much relevant material as possible, as soon as possible. This post will be updated as I get time to write up the new material. Anyone with information please be in contact. I will also be considering other aspects of Canada’s impending drone purchase).

Canada has many connections with Israeli drone companies, which are particularly problematic because Israeli’s drone companies are all intimately involved in the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine by the Israeli state. All of them have numerous worldwide investments, and use foreign suppliers (including Canadian ones) to create the drones that they sell worldwide based their ‘conflict tested’ status.

Presently Canada is considering purchasing drones for the military. This is being evaluated in a programme called Project JUSTAS. As Project JUSTAS nears completion it is worth examining the  relationships that Canada and Canadian companies have with the Israeli drones industry.

Rented Heron drones for Afghanistan through Macdonald DettwilerAssociates

Perhaps the most explicit relationship between Canada and Israeli drone companies has been the rental of Heron drones for surveillance purposes by Canadian Forces operating in Afghanistan. Canada rented  Heron drones for surveillance purposes and returned them recently when they were no longer required.

Macdonald Dettwiler at Suffield

MDA maintains a Research and Training Centre for drones at Suffield Alberta.  The centre began as ‘ARDEA‘, a joint project with Israeli Aerospace industries, but is now identified as an MDA project, the International Training Centre. MDA is making active efforts to sell Israeli technology from Israel Aerospace Industries to commercial buyers in the oil and gas and forestry sectors.

Also involved is militarist training specialist Meggitt Training Systems Canada.

Macdonald Dettwiler and Israel Aerospace Industries provided training for Canadian and Australian pilots to fly drones As part of the rental  arrangement for Heron drones used by Canada and Australia in Afghanistan, MDA provided training using Canadian and Israeli instructors. (Some Australians were unhappy with the quality of the training). MDA has morphed this activity into a service for training UAV operators.

Pratt and Whitney(Canada) supplies engines for Heron TP drones.

Pratt and Whitney Canada has a long standing relationship with the Israeli Air Force. Pratt and Whitney Canada is part of a global concern Pratt and Whitney Ltd that is based in Hartford Connecticut. The global company maintains manufacturing facilities around the world, including in Israel.

The Pratt and Whitney (Canada) PT6A is used in Israel’s new Eitan drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle the size of a jet liner that was used for surveillance in the recent Cast Lead attacks on the Gaza Strip, and is said to be capable of spying on, or even attacking Iran.

Pratt and Whitney Canada also supplied the Israeli Air Force with PT6A turboprop engines for IAI Arava STOL aircraft,  in an association that went back as far as 1980.

Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A (-27 thru -42, -50), PT6T (series), are listed as exports to Israel by Israeli ‘Homeland Security’.  IAI also used Pratt and Whitney Canada   PW-306A  turbo fan engines in its Galaxy corporate jets in the 1990′s.

In December 2010, Canada’s Industry minister, Tony Clement announced that Canada would be investing $1 Billion Canadian in a Pratt and Whitney Canada project to make a lighter aircraft engine, in a move said to preserve jobs at Pratt and Whitney’s Longeuil, PQ facility, in Lethbridge, AB, and in Mississaugua, ON. Since the research will almost certainly be to improve the Pratt and Whitney Canada mainstay PT 6 engine, can we expect that this will directly benefit future production of Israel’s Eitan drones?

Bet Shemesh Engines Ltd. of Israel advertises that it does casting for Pratt and Whitney Canada’s PW306 and PW307 engines, either at its facilities in Bet Shemesh Israel, or in Serbia. As in many Israeli companies producing arms related items, some of the prinicipal officers are high ranking officers in the Israeli military. Bet Shemesh CEO Avner Shacham owns about 25% of Bet Shemesh, and is a Lieutenant Colonel in the reserves of the Israeli army.

Bet Shemesh is an Israeli town about 20 km west of Jerusalem. It is the site of the former Arab Palestinian village of Beit Natif, and has been a hotbed of support for the Likud Party. The Arab Palestinians were ‘ethnically cleansed’ and are now refugees who cannot return to their homes in Beit Natif. They and their descendants live mostly in refugee camps under occupation in the Bethlehem district.

In July 2009, Israel purchased 20 T-6 Beechcraft aircraft trainers, powered by Pratt and Whitney Canada’s PW6A turbo prop engines.

Canadian Software Company Works with Israeli Drone Company

Presagis, a subsididary of CAE,  provides training system for Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest drone company. Elbit Systems has been widely criticised for it’s involvement in Israel’s apartheid wall, and Elbit drones are used to maintain the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

More recently parent company CAE announced it is teaming up with Elbit Systems to create ‘and integrated soldier system’ , which it will try to sell to the Canadian military.

CAE has teamed with Israeli drones firm Aeronautics to demonstrate the civilian uses of its ‘Miskam’ drone. It is being tested and demonstrated at the ‘UAS Centre of Excellence’ at Alma, Quebec, north of Quebec City. ‘Miskam’ is the Canadian version of the Dominator XP. (no doubt ‘Dominator’ was too strong a word for civilian use).(Redo all stuff on CAE and Aeronautics) In early 2012 there were reports that Aeronautics was experiencing financial problems. In past years Aeronautics has received heavy criticism for its business practises.

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Elbit scores on Israeli missile hysteria

The recent Libyan revolution has had unexpected benefits for Elbit Systems, the giant Israeli arms company, while making the Israeli repression of Gaza more difficult.

Gangs of smugglers apparently looted Libyan government arms stores during the upheaval and made off with quantities of surface to air missiles sold by Russia to the Qaddafi regime. These might include SA-18 or SA-24 Grinch missiles, made in Russia. These apparently were sold to Libya outside the international arms control system (unsurprisingly).

According to Israeli sources some of these have made their way to Hamas, sparking a wave of hysteria in Israel.

The upshot of this perceived threat is that Elbit Systems has sold many units of its ‘C-Music’ system for protecting large aircraft from small surface to air missile systems known as ‘man pads’. C-Music uses a laser to ‘defeat’ the incoming missile. Military planes already have similar systems. C-Music is a version for commercial airliners, which is similar to one Elbit supplies for military aircraft.

After selling as many as 100 units for Israeli airliners, Elbit Systems is offering its system to the international market. At a cost of $1 million to $1.5 million per plane, that’s $100-150 million in sales for Elbit, not counting possible international sales. (Elbit states that its contract with the Israeli government for fitting commercial airliners with the system is for $76 million).

Despite the hysteria in Israel, there hasn’t been an instance of one of these missiles being used since 2002, when al Qaeda fired at an Israeli airliner and missed. Despite Israeli claims there isn’t evidence that Hamas or other factions would use the missiles against civilian airliners. Security officials point out that missiles of this sort are widely available from sources other than the chaotic Libyan aftermath.

The hysteria generated promises to deliver Elbit a ready market however, demonstrating how the excesses of the arms trade (eg Russia selling missiles to Qaddafi) leads to profits and proliferation of weaponry in an adjacent part of the world.

The flap has benefits for the Netanyahu government as well, which returns attention to the security needs of Israel rather than its ongoing repression and colonisation in Palestine.

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Elbit remotely controlled gun turrets used from Gaza to Brazil.

Elbit has also won a contract to provide the Brazilian military with ‘unmanned turrets’ for military vehicles, designed to by used in ‘asymetric warfare’. In other words terrorism, guerrilla warfare, or civil disobedience. Given that warfare isn’t a high risk in Brazil, the turrets would likely be used to quell civil disobedience or riots. In the Brazilian situation, I believe that ‘asymetric warfare’ is a code word for ‘riots’.

Elbit already supplies the turret to the Belgians, in a $58 million contract, involving General Dynamics.  In 2007 they announced sales of the turrets to Slovenia and Romania. In 2006  they sold them to Portugal.

These unmanned turrets appear to be remotely controlled turrets capable of firing cannons, machine guns, grenade launchers (presumably smoke or tear gas), and with sophisticated electronics for seeing and following targets.

Elbit claims to supply these turrets to all IDF battle tanks, including the Merkava. (Though in the IDF version they also fire missiles.) It claims that a version of the turret was used during the Israeli ‘disengagement’ from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Presumably these turrets are available on a wide range of armoured vehicles that have been, or may be used, in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

Presumably they could be operated as ‘remote sentinels’, similar to the device made by Samsung (described elsewhere here), which can guard and area and spray it with automatic weapons fire if desired. It isn’t clear if Elbit markets the turret for this purpose.

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Drones in Gaza and the Significance for Purchasers of Israeli Drones

Many countries around the world have purchased or leased Israeli drones, including the UK, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Turkey. Many of these have been the Hermes 450 or variants, the same drone used extensively and more or less secretly in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and in the recent attacks on Gaza.

The UK has an 850 million pound contract with UTacS to provide the UK with modified Hermes 450 drones under the Watchkeeper programme.

Israeli has the leading position in the development of drones, with two companies IAI and Elbit Systems as world leaders.

When countries purchase Israeli drones, what is happening?

For one thing, they are purchasing state of the art technology which has been field tested in ‘combat’ in the occupied territories of Palestine. Israel has a long history of drone use in Palestine, though this was relatively secret until recently. Drones by their nature are difficult to detect, and without IDF confirmation of their use this was difficult to establish.

But beginning about five years ago, reports of drones used in targetted assassinations became more common. Drones were first used to provide surveillance, but subsequently the technology was developed to arm the drones with missiles and other weapons, as well as non lethal capability like the ability to jam cell phones.They were also able to ‘mark’ targets, so that targets could be attacked by other weapons like missiles or bombs launched from military jets.

Early reports talked about the high accuracy of these weapons. Certainly Palestinian militants became fearful of them.

But in Operation Cast Lead reports came in of many, many civilian deaths caused by drones, in circumstances where it ‘should’ have been able to distinguish between fighters and civilians. What was happening? Are drones less precise than believed in the fog of war? Were drones being used to murder people? We can’t know at the moment because Israel refuses to examine the events, or to provide the tapes of the drone attacks to be publicly reviewed.

When a country buys or purchases Israeli drones they are accepting the baggage that goes with them. A brand name cosmetic company can’t survive if it uses ‘animal testing’. Yet western democracies purchase drones from Israeli companies knowing that these drones are either hopelessly and dangerously inaccurate, or have been associated by the senseless slaughter of civilians.

The introduction of the Watchkeeper drone seems to have been delayed beyond the expected date of spring 2010. Is this delay due to technical considerations or is the UK MOD embarrassed to introduce these modified Hermes 450 drones just before an election, which could become an election issue?

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Use of Drones in Operation ‘Cast Lead’, Gaza

Until 2009 Israeli drone use in Gaza and the West Bank was shrouded in secrecy. Small, quiet, and flying at high altitude, drones were often unseen by people on the ground. Militants reported many attacks where explosions were preceeded by cell phones going dead, suggesting interference caused by drones. Attacks by drones were seen as fairly accurate and devasting. For example this article.

How then does one explain the large numbers of civilians including children who were killed in drone attacks during ‘Operation Cast Lead”?

‘Precisely Wrong’ a report of Human Rights Watch reported 42 drone attacks that killed 89 people in all.

Human Rights Watch said:

Israeli forces failed to take all feasible precautions to verify that these targets were combatants, as required by the laws of war, or that they failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians.”

Here or HERE is a Guardian video documentary of drone use in Operation ‘Cast Lead’, the December 2009 attack by Israeli forces on Gaza, in which it is clearly shown that drones have clear visibility of their targets, but were used to kill non combatants nevertheless.

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Drones in Gaza, A Gazan Viewpoint.

In March 2010 David Cronin of the Interpress News Agency interviewed MAHMOUD ABU RAHMA, Gazan human rights worker, who had just been allowed out of Gaza for the first time since 2006.

Asked about the use of drones in Gaza, Abu Rahma had this to say:

“Based on our documentation on the number of drone attacks on Gaza during last winter’s war and based on the number of victims that have been documented and based on how most of these victims were actually civilians – many of them were children – the weapons that killed most civilians last winter were drones. They failed with excellence between distinguishing civilians and combatants. They are precision weapons but they are operated by one person who is sitting behind a computer and seeing a small screen. Sometimes decisions have to be made with haste so with the very open rules that the Israeli army operated under during the war, these weapons have caused too much damage to civilians. And I think you can make a case that this documentation and other documentation coming from Afghanistan and other places where this terrible weapon has been used deserve a serious concentration by the international community to see what can be done about this weapon. Our documentation takes me to only one direction: this is a cruel weapon that must not be used in wars where civilians are involved.”

In response to a question about purchases of Israeli arms he had other comments:

Q: Some EU countries are major customers of the Israeli arms industry. Does that make them complicit in crimes perpetrated by the state of Israel?

A: I don’t want to say that the EU has been complicit but what I can say is that the EU has not done enough when it could have. Logic from a human rights point of view is based on the ethical rule that says if you can, you ought to. So if you can practice influence and change the situation to the good, then you have an obligation, moral as well as legal, to do something about the situation. And from our point of view, the EU has not done enough.

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