Amnesty: Israel training UK to use Cast Lead UAVs

Rights group says drones "field-tested on Palestinians," have been involved in "serious human rights violations" by IDF in Gaza.

311_Panther UAV (photo credit: Courtesy of IAI)
311_Panther UAV
(photo credit: Courtesy of IAI)
Human rights group Amnesty International on Friday said British soldiers are being trained in Israel in the use of unnmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which have been "field-tested on Palestinians" during IDF operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009, Sky News reported.
Britain has purchased 30 of Elbit's WK450 UAVs, based on the Hermes 450 system, in a deal which Sky News says is worth nearly one billion pounds. As a result of the deal, British troops have been training in Israel in the use of the drones.
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"Amnesty International has documented the role of drones in serious human rights violations by the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza," Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock told Sky News.
"There is already growing international concern over the use of drones in remote unlawful killings, sometimes amounting to extrajudicial executions," Hancock explained. "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."
Amnesty Int'l estimates that hundreds of civilians were killed during Operation Cast Lead, including up to 300 children.
In response to the report, a British government spokesperson told Sky News that, "The UK has no involvement in the tasking and operational use of unmanned aerial vehicles in Israel."
"UK military personnel conduct training around the world to prepare for operations," continued the spokesman. "Small numbers of British Forces travel to Israel for contractor-provided pre-deployment training on the unarmed Hermes 450 UAV and its Watchkeeper replacement. 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."
According to the report, there was no reference that the training received by the British involved flights over Palestinian areas.
A British Ministry of Defense fact sheet obtained by Sky News said that, "Watchkeeper training, including live flying, will take place in the UK."
The Watchkeeper UAV is currently being produced in the UK, with flight tests being conducted in Wales. Delivery was expected in 2010.