While the lethal drone strikes carried out by the U.S. in Afghanistan (where Britain is also operating armed drones), Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, get the vast majority of media attention, and rightly so, when it comes to the issue of drones being used to carry out extrajudicial killings, other countries are also engaged in the practice. On Tuesday an Israeli drone attack on Gaza City killed 29-year-old Haitham al-Mishal and wounded another Palestinian man. The attack was the "the first targeted assassination carried out by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip since an Egyptian-brokered truce went into effect on Nov. 22, 2012."
Israel pioneered the use of drones back in 1970, first making widespread use of them to monitor troop movements in its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. And although it has been operating armed drones in Palestine for years, their use has received far less media attention than it deserves.
The attack on Tuesday took place as Mishal, who was from the ash-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza and was a member of the security staff at Al-Shifa Hospital, was riding his motorcycle in south-west Gaza. According to Israeli officials, Mishal was involved in a rocket attack on the Israeli city of Eliat on April 17. Of course, like the victims of American and British drone strikes who have also been robbed of their rights to due process, Mishal was never given a chance to respond to these allegations and Israel never needed to prove them.
The ceasefire had brought an end to Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, which left 160 Palestinians and 6 Israelis dead. Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report claiming that at least 18 Israeli air strikes during the 2012 operation, including strikes carried out by drones, "were in apparent violation of the laws of war." At least 43 Palestinian civilians, including 12 children, were killed in the attacks. From the report:
"Human Rights Watch investigations found that Israeli drone strikes on November 19 killed three men in a truck carrying tomatoes in Deir al-Balah, and a science teacher who was sitting in his front yard with his 3-year-old son on his lap, talking to an acquaintance – only the toddler survived, but was seriously wounded. Other drone-launched missile attacks killed a 79-year-old man and his 14-year-old granddaughter in the family’s olive grove in Abasan; a farmer and his nephew as they were walking on a road near their olive trees in the Khan Yunis area; and a 28-year-old woman carrying a blanket in the yard of her home in the town of Khuza’a. HRW's investigations of these attacks "found no evidence of Palestinian fighters, weaponry, or other apparent military objectives at the time of the attack."
Although the United Nations announced in January this year that Ben Emmerson, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, will conduct an investigation into U.S., UK, and Israeli drone strikes, Israeli's use of drones has received very little media coverage. This is despite the fact that, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, since 2006 "825 people have been killed by drones in Gaza." Most of those killed in these attacks were reportedly "civilians mistakenly targeted or caught in the deadly shrapnel shower of a drone strike."
While U.S. and British drone attacks have killed far more people, and have recently garnered increased media attention, the use of drones by Israel to carry out extrajudicial killings must not be ignored and should also be strongly condemned.