The British Army has ordered at least 30 Israeli-origin UAVs under the
Watchkeeper program, the prime contractor of which was identified as Thales
UK. The platform, called WK-450, has been based on the Hermes-450 UAV,
produced by Israel's Elbit System. In an interim measure, the British Army
has ordered the Hermes-450 for its contingent in the NATO stabilization
mission in Afghanistan.
Amnesty said the Israeli military deployed the Hermes-450 during the war
against Hamas in 2009. The organization did not detail the operations of the
Hermes in the Gaza Strip.
"Amnesty International has documented the role of drones in serious
human rights violations by the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza," Hancock
told Britain's Sky News television. "There is already growing international
concern over the use of drones in remote unlawful killings, sometimes
amounting to extrajudicial executions."
Palestinians have accused Israel of using its UAVs in attack operations
in the Gaza Strip. They said unidentified Israeli unmanned platforms have
fired small rockets at Hamas and other targets.
The British government has acknowledged that the British military was
training in Israel on UAVs. A government statement said the British Army
would receive a non-combat version of the Hermes-450.
"Small numbers of British forces travel to Israel for
contractor-provided pre-deployment training on the unarmed Hermes 450 UAV
and its Watchkeeper replacement," the British statement said. "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."