Here's how Israel's IDF drones hit Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza

This is the largest collection of footage of IDF drone strikes since the Israeli military censor began allowing reports on such strikes.

 IDF drone (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF drone
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The IDF released expansive footage of drone strikes against Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip during Operation Breaking Dawn, revealing for the first time the extent of the drones’ use in targeted assassinations and precision strikes.

While some footage was released during the operation, Wednesday’s revelation is the largest collection of footage of IDF drone strikes published by the military since the military censor began permitting Israeli journalists to report the use of drones in combat strikes last month.

IDF drone strikes mortar launcher and Islamic Jihad members in Gaza, August 18, 2022 (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

The IDF stressed that drones have become a substantial part of its operations in recent years, with drones almost constantly conducting reconnaissance missions. About 80% of the Israel Air Force’s total operation flight hours come from the drone squadrons.

The main operations of the drone array take place at the Palmahim Air Base, where some of the drone squadrons and the Zik Unit, the drone unit of the Artillery Corps, are located. An additional squadron that operates the Eitan drone is located at the Tel Nof Base.

 IDF drone (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) IDF drone (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

In the past month, a new drone squadron, which operates the “Spark” drone, was opened at the Hatzor Air Base.

The drone array operates in cooperation with intelligence units. Strikes are carried out with quality and precision to prevent bystanders from being harmed.

IDF drone strikes Palestinian Islamic Jihad members in Gaza, August 17, 2022 (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Zik Unit led drone coordination over Gaza

In the days leading up to the recent operation in Gaza, the Zik Unit operated over the Gaza Strip and prepared for several operational scenarios, explained IDF Chief Artillery Officer Neri Horowitz on Wednesday.

Once it was decided to launch a preemptive strike, the unit carried out a wide range of reconnaissance and attack missions, including targeted assassinations of senior Islamic Jihad officials, the destruction of rocket and mortar launchers and the assassination of rocket-launching squads.

IDF drone units operate during Operation Breaking Dawn, August 2022 (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

The Zik Unit specializes in coordinating commands between different forces, exposing the enemy and strikes. Horowitz added that the unit “has been a significant force in many operations over the years and has an extensive combat heritage, has existed for over two decades and since its establishment has been a model for a unique multi-armed partnership in the IDF.”

The commander of the land drone unit in the Artillery Corps, Lt.-Col. “M.” added that “as a ground unit leading the coordination and missions in the current operation with the Gaza Division and the Southern Command, we are working 24/7 to ensure the safety of the residents of the surrounding area and the State of Israel.”

When did the Israeli military censor allow information on IDF drone strikes?

Breaking Dawn was the first operation to take place since the military censor began allowing journalists in late July to report that Israel uses armed drones to strike targets. The IDF pointed out that drones have been used multiple times to strike members of terrorist movements in the Gaza Strip in recent years.

IDF drone strikes Palestinian Islamic Jihad members in Gaza, August 17, 2022 (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

The international press has reported the Israel Air Force’s use of attack drones for at least 20 years, and it has been extensively documented in US diplomatic cables as well as at international air shows. The IDF, however, never publicly disclosed the use of such platforms, and Israeli journalists who attempted to publish anything were blocked by the censor.

The first video of IDF drone strikes during Operation Breaking Dawn was published on August 7, the second day of the operation.

"All of Gaza is lined with drones, remotely manned aircraft that collect intelligence 24 hours a day."

Commanding Officer of the Palmachim Air Force Base, Brig.-Gen. Omri Dor

“All of Gaza is lined with drones, remotely manned aircraft that collect intelligence 24 hours a day,” said the commanding officer of the Palmahim Air Force Base, Brig.-Gen. Omri Dor.

“The world of attack in the drone array is diverse, starting with a very surgical event of finding a person or a single launcher and neutralizing it without causing environmental damage and harm to another person.”

Dor added that the drone array has excellent scanning abilities, which allows for large strikes like those seen in Operation Breaking Dawn with a lot of explosives and minimal collateral damage. “More than once we have stopped attacks from being carried out, in order to prevent harming innocents.”

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.