New Briefing – Gaza: Life beneath the drones

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Unpiloted aircraft, known as drones, have become Israel’s weapon of choice in its attacks on Gaza. In 2012 drones killed more people in Gaza than any other aircraft. In Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ attack, 37% of those killed died in drone attacks.

In 2013 Corporate Watch visited Gaza for two months to interview the survivors of drone attacks and human rights workers about the effect of living beneath the drones. The interviews tell the story of the survivors and highlights their calls for support from the global solidarity movement.

This briefing compiles the interviews and gives short profiles of some of the companies profiting from Israel’s drone wars: Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

We hope that reading this briefing will inspire you to take action in solidarity with people living under siege in Gaza. As one survivor of a drone strike told us: “We do not need just words”.

Israel Aerospace Industries: a company profile

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Israel Aerospace Industries is one of Israel’s biggest arms companies. Founded in 1953 as Bedek, IAI has long been at the forefront of Israel’s arms production and export. It also develops systems for commercial aircraft. In 2013, 73% of IAI’s sales revenues came from exports.

IAI and Israel’s drone wars

IAI was one of the earliest developers of drone technology and launched its first surveillance drone, the IAI Scout, in 1979. Since then the company has launched a number of drone models (see below). Drone development is handled by IAIs MALAT divisions. IAI describes its unmanned aerial systems as ‘combat proven’ and writes on its website of its drones’ “unsurpassed track record of over 1,200,000 operational flight hours for over 50 users on five continents”. According to Drone Wars UK, IAI has exported their UAVs, sometimes through joint venture agreements, to various European countries as well as South America, Australia, Canada and India and the company has a growing market in Africa.

IAI and Gaza

Most of IAI’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) are surveillance drones, but the Heron 1 and Heron TP both have strike capabilities and have been used in Gaza. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW),i the Heron can fly up to 40 hours and can carry four Spike missiles. It is also used for surveillance and to identify targets on the ground.

Drone Wars UKii reports that Israel was deploying armed Heron 1 drones during the Operation Summer Rains attack in Gaza in 2006.

The IAI Heron TP is Israel’s biggest drone, with a wing span of 26 metres. It was first used during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza during 2008-2009.iii When the Heron TP is marketed as ‘combat proven’ it means that it has been tried out on the people of Gaza with fatal consequences.

Attacks on Lebanon:

IAI’s Searcher and Scout drones were both used for surveillance in Israel’s attacks on Lebanon in the 1990s and early 2000s. It is believed that armed Heron drones were used in the assault on Lebanon in 2006iv

IAI and the US:v

During the first Gulf War, IAI Pioneer drones were used by the US navy to guide shells fired from battleships.

Industry:

A ‘defence’ company which develops and produces a variety of products for both military and commercial markets in Israel and around the world, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), fighter jets and naval and ground defence systems. In 2013, military equipment accounted for 73% of the company’s sales, with only 27% going to commercial markets.vi

Traded on: TASE

Revenues/Assets/Sales: In 2013 the company reported an operating income of $84 million, the company recorded total assets of over $5 billion and net sales of over $3.5 billion – to view the company accounts click here.

Employees: 16,000

Subsidiaries:

ELTA Systems Ltd (Israel)

ELTA North America (based in Maryland, US)

European Advanced Technology (EAT)

Addresses:

Website: www.iai.co.il

Head quarters: Ben Gurion International Airport, 70100, Israel. Phone: 00972-3-9353111 Email: corpmkg@iai.co.il

Representatives: The company has representatives around the world, including in Asia, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Korea, North America and Russia.

Ownership: IAI is fully owned by the Israeli state. It is the largest state owned defence and aerospace company in Israel.

Drones manufactured by IAIvii

IAI Scout, Bird Eye 400, Mini Panther, Mosquito 1, Mosquito 1.5, Panther, Harpy, Searcher I, I-View-150, Searcher II, Searcher III, B-Hunter, Heron 1 (Shoval), Heron TP (Eitan).

Countries IAI has exported to:viii

Angola, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United States, UK.

Resistance:

In 2011 a Palestinian civil society call demanded a two way embargo on arms sales to and from the Israeli state and Israeli companies.

In October 2014, activists from London Palestine Action occupied the London offices of Airbus over its involvement with IAI. The two companies are working together on the Harfang drone for the French Air Force. The Harfang drone is based on the IAI Heron.

Background

The battlefields of Israel’s militarism and occupation have proved effective testing grounds for new types of weaponry. Israel’s constant state of warfare has ensured a reliable marketplace for Israeli arms manufacturers. According to Drone Wars UK, surveillance drones were first used in Egypt in the lead up to the Yom Kippur War. The first recorded use of an Israeli drone to help piloted warplanes bomb targets (target acquisition) was in 1982 in the run up to the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon. According to the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, the first recorded use of an armed drone by Israel was in 2004. The experience gleaned during years of military repression has made Israel the largest exporter of drone technology in the world. Israeli arms companies have sold drones to over 50 countries.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW): “the missile fired from a drone has its own cameras that allow the operator to observe the target from the moment of firing. The optics on both the drone and missiles include imaging infrared cameras that allow operators to see individuals at night as well as during the day. With these visual capabilities, drone operators should have been able to tell the difference between fighters and others directly participating in hostilities, who are legitimate targets, and civilians, who are immune from attack, and to hold fire if that determination could not be made. If a last-second doubt arises about a target, the drone operator can use the missile’s remote guidance system to divert the fired missile, steering the missile away from the target with a joystick.”

Despite this, the number of deaths (as a proportion of total deaths) caused by drone strikes has been increasing. During our 2013 visit to Gaza, Corporate Watch interviewed several survivors of Israeli drone attacks who had not involved in any fighting before they were targeted, many of those killed by drone attacks are children. The Gaza based Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights provided Corporate Watch with these shocking figures for the years 2000-2012:

Year

Total recorded number of people killed by Israeli attacks in Gaza

Number of people killed by Israeli drones in Gaza (% of total)

2000

123

0 (0%)

2001

243

0 (0%)

2002

472

0 (0%)

2003

398

0 (0%)

2004

646

2 (0.3%)

2005

99

0 (0%)

2006

534

91 (17%)

2007

281

98 (34.9%)

2008

769

172 (22.4%)

2009

1058

461 (43.6%)

2010

72

19 (26.4%)

2011

112

58 (51.8%)

2012

255

201 (78.8%)

 

Israeli drone strikes are carried out from the Palmachin and Tel Nof air force bases.xxii
Endnotes:

i Human Rights Watch (2009), Section 4

iiDrone Wars UK (2014), page 10

iiiT. Goldenburg, Huffington Post, Israel Unveils New Drone Fleet that can reach Iran (2010)

ivDrone Wars UK (2014), page 10

vDrone Wars UK (2014), page 7

viIAI – http://www.iai.co.il/Shared/UserControls/Print/PopUp.aspx?lang=en&docid=45888

viiDrone Wars UK (2014), page 7

viiiDrone Wars UK (2014), page 19

Elbit: new company profile

elbit

Elbit Systems, based in Haifa, is Israel’s largest publicly traded arms and security company. Elbit is growing fast. It has absorbed dozens of companies since 2000 and now employs well over 11,500 people as well a presiding over a considerable global network of subsidiaries and affiliated corporations.

Elbit is a company with international reach, in fact 75% of its market is outside Israel. The company has military contracts with governments in the US, UK and Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.

85% of drones used by the Israeli military are manufactured by Elbit. Elbit’s armed drones are used by the Israeli army in daily surveillance and attacks in Gaza, according to Defense News. In effect, Elbit markets its equipment on the fact that it has been battle tested on the bodies of people in Gaza. For example, the Elbit website advertises that the Hermes 450 drone is the “backbone of Israel’s UAS fleet” and is combat proven.

To read the full profile click here.

Honeyell components used to bomb Gaza last Summer

Components manufactured by US firm Honeywell were used to bomb a Palestinian home during the Israeli attack on Gaza last Summer.

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Photos taken by International Solidarity Movement activist Charlie Andreasson in Shujaiya on 9th August 2014, show damage to a Palestinian home close to where the components were found. One picture shows a component marked Honeywell, giving a postcode in Iowa. The damage can only have been caused by an aerial dropped bomb. The components were probably for a laser guided bomb system.

The Gaza City neighbourhood of Shujaiya was devastated by the bombing last Summer which claimed the lives of 2,191 Palestinians.

Honeywell is a US Based international corporation that produces products fo the arms, manufacturing, civil aviation and construction industries. It also produces thermostats for home use. The Palestinian call for boycott divestment and sanctions calls for people to boycott consumer products from companies supplying weaponry to the Israeli military, in solidarity with people in Gaza.

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Will the Supreme Court give police the ‘right’ to mass surveillance?

john-catt_2509902bThe Metropolitan Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), with the backing of the Secretary of State, have been fighting a case in the Supreme Court, defending their ‘right’ to store data on protesters. They are appealing against a 2013 judgement, which said that they were obliged to destroy data about an anti-war protester called John Catt. The ruling has implications for the police’s right to store data on everyone. The court has now heard legal arguments and a judgement is expected soon. Continue reading

Life beneath the drones: part six – ‘They get money and they cost our lives’

An Israeli surveillance balloon over a house in Al Qarara, close to the home of the Abu Zneid family - Photo taken by Corporate Watch, November 2013

An Israeli surveillance balloon over a house in Al Qarara, close to the home of the Abu Zneid family – Photo taken by Corporate Watch, November 2013

This is the sixth and final instalment in our series of articles focusing on what life is like for people in Gaza living beneath Israel’s military drones. For more reading about the history and impact of drone use in Gaza, first hand accounts of drone attacks and information and ideas for action against drone manufacturers and investors in drone technology, see part one, two, three, four and five

We met the Abu Zneid family in al Qarara, an agricultural village to the north of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip in November 2013. We had been told about their story by professor Haidar Eid, a member of the Gaza steering committee of The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [PACBI] and a univerity lecturer. When we asked if he knew anyone we could interview about Israeli drone attacks he said: “You need to hear what happened to this woman I was teaching, She was the most brilliant student I had ever had before she was killed by a drone in 2009”. Continue reading

Palestinian family forced from their home by Israeli drone attacks

This is part five of our series of articles focussing on what life is like for people in Gaza living beneath Israel’s military drones. To read part one, two, three and four click here.

We met Abdullah and Ebtihaj Al Habil at their house to the North of Gaza City in December 2013. Abdullah told us that he has been attacked by Israeli drones on two occasions. The attacks have forced them to abandon their home and find new accommodation.

The first attack came in 2009. Abdullah told us: “My family’s house is near here. We were all there when the bombing started. We decided to come here and get some clothes and then we were going to go to the UNWRA school in Shati Camp. I parked the car opposite the house and walked toward the house alone. I got a bag of food and clothes from the house. I could hear the drones in the sky above making a humming sound. I ran with the bag from the house toward the car. They fired. I heard the rocket. I looked round and could see it flying towards me. I jumped out of the way, hit a wall and a splinter from the rocket hit my leg.” Abdullah showed us his leg, which had a chunk of flesh missing.

Scars on Abdullah Al Habil’s leg from an injury sustained in a drone attack in 2009

The second attack came in 2012: “Three pillars of my house were destroyed by firing from the sea, an Apache [helicopter] fired three rockets at the house and machine gunned our water tanks. Then a drone strike hit the roof.” He shows us where the drone hit. Abdullah tells us that. “the wall of the house was damaged”. He hasn’t been able to afford to repair it and the roof leaks when it rains.

Abdullah points to damage to his roof caused by the attack on their house by an Israeli drone and an Apache Helicopter in 2012

“The attack happened after midnight, we heard the firing from the Apache and took our five children to take cover in the stairwell. They were firing white phosphorous munitions so we hid under soaking wet sacks to protect ourselves from burns. We could not go out of the house because the warships were firing into the street. We tried to call an ambulance but the phones were blocked. We heard the drone attack happen after the Apache.

Damage caused to water tanks on the roof of the house by machine gun fire from an Apache helicopter in 2012

“We know that a drone fired on us because one of the three rockets did not explode. The rocket was one metre long, two inches wide. The middle is made of plastic. The two tips were made of iron and at the end was a propeller.

“Our house was hit by white phosphorous ammunition [probably from the ships]. We tried to put it out but we couldn’t, it just kept burning.

“In the early morning the house across the street was hit by an F-16, killing three people.

The view from Abdullah and Ebtihaj’s window of a crater caused when the house opposite them was hit by a missile from an F-16

“When we came back to clean up the house after the attacks we found that papers had been dropped warning people to leave their homes. We had not seen the papers before the attack started. There was no reason given for the attack on our house.”

Abdullah tells us, “I paid $50 000 to repair the house. The construction materials were very expensive because of the siege. The government and UNWRA promised us support but it did not come. They just gave us some food and mattresses when we went to the UNWRA school. I had to buy new furniture, a TV, tiles for the bathroom and repair the ceiling. However, we no longer want to stay here. It is too dangerous. We are living somewhere else.

According to Abdullah: “Israel depends on drones more and more. More than any other warplanes. In 2009 and 2012, they were used for both surveillance and for attack and they were sending information to help the [Israeli naval] ships target their missiles.”

Increasing deaths caused by drone strikes

The number of deaths (as a proportion of total deaths) caused by drone strikes has been increasing. The Gaza based Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights provided Corporate Watch with these shocking figures for the years 2000-2012:

Year

Total recorded number of people killed by Israeli attacks in Gaza

Number of people killed by Israeli drones in Gaza (% of total)

2000

123

0 (0%)

2001

243

0 (0%)

2002

472

0 (0%)

2003

398

0 (0%)

2004

646

2 (0.3%)

2005

99

0 (0%)

2006

534

91 (17%)

2007

281

98 (34.9%)

2008

769

172 (22.4%)

2009

1058

461 (43.6%)

2010

72

19 (26.4%)

2011

112

58 (51.8%)

2012

255

201 (78.8%)

 

The companies behind Israel’s drone strikes

The battlefields of Israel’s militarism and occupation have proved effective testing grounds for new types of weaponry. Israel’s constant state of warfare has ensured a reliable marketplace for Israeli arms manufacturers. According to Drone Wars UK, surveillance drones were first used in Egypt in the lead up to the Yom Kippur War. The first recorded use of an Israeli drone to help piloted warplanes bomb targets (target acquisition) was in 1982 in the run up to the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon. According to the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, the first recorded use of an armed drone by Israel was in 2004. The experience gleaned during years of military repression has made Israel the largest exporter of drone technology in the world. Israeli arms companies have sold drones to over 50 countries.

Israel’s market leaders in drone technology are Elbit, a private Israeli company based in Haifa. Elbit have partnered with French company Thales to manufacture the Watchkeeper drone for the UK military. A list of the Watchkeeper programme’s subcontractors can be found here.

The Watchkeeper is being tested at Parc Aberporth facility in Wales. Miitary testing is being carried out in Wiltshire at Boscombe Down. Campaigners in Wales have been protesting for years against the flying of drones at Parc Aberporth.

Thales’ UK locations can be viewed here.

Elbit’s UK locations can be viewed here.

In 2007 Elbit bought UK company Ferranti Technologies, based in Oldham, Manchester.

Two-way arms embargo

In 2011 a group of grassroots Palestinian groups called for a two-way arms embargo. This means an embargo on arms sales to Israel and on purchases of weapons from Israeli companies, until Israel abides by international humanitarian law. The Palestinian Boycott National Committee wrote at the time: “A comprehensive military embargo on Israel is long overdue. It would form a crucial step towards ending Israel’s unlawful and criminal use of force against the Palestinian people and other peoples and states in the region, and would constitute an effective, non-violent measure to pressure Israel to comply with its obligations under international law.”

The campaign recognises that buying arms from Israeli companies fuels Israeli militarism and strengthens the occupation and siege. In the UK, there is a call by a coalition of groups including War on Want for campaigners to pressure their representatives to support a two-way embargo; end all contracts with Elbit Systems and Elbit subsidiaries; end all arms trade with Israel; and suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement and all EU research funding for Israel’s arms companies.

Target the shareholders

Protesters demonstrate outside Newport Magistrate’s court where four people were on trial accused of aggravated trespass for occupying a Barclalys Branch this week. They were found not guilty!

The Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions demands action to persuade the investors in companies complicit in Israeli militarism to divest their shares. Barclays PLC is the named owner of over 50, 000 shares in Elbit Systems.

During the most recent Israeli attack on Gaza, in which 2,191 Palestinians were killed, campaigners held demonstrations and occupations of branches of Barclays bank all over the UK, including in Aberdeen, London, Brighton, Manchester and Wrexham. An Avaaz petition calling on Barclays to divest has gained nearly 2 million signatures. On 6 September 2014, campaigners in Wales held an occupation of a Barclays branch in Newport in solidarity with Gaza. Several people glued themselves to furniture inside the bank, closing the branch for several hours. Campaigners also staged an occupation of a Barclays branch in Brighton on October 11th.

In the face of these growing protests against its shares in Elbit, Barclays has claimed that it only holds these shares “on behalf of clients and to hedge exposure against customer facing transactions”. This explanation doesn’t get Barclays off the hook. The practice of ‘hedging’ is still a form of investment and in agreeing to purchase the shares in Elbit on the behalf of their customers the bank is ignoring the war crimes being carried out against people like Abdullah and Ebtihaj using Elbit’s equipment. Barclays have the power to refuse to purchase shares for their clients in unethical companies like Elbit. There is a need for further concerted action to persuade Barclays to change their position and to have nothing to do with shares in Elbit.

Continue reading

Trading under siege: the dying export industry in the Gaza Strip

Corporate Watch researchers visited the Gaza Strip during November and December 2013 and carried out interviews with farmers in Beit Hanoun, Al Zaytoun, Khuza’a, Al Maghazi and Rafah, as well as with representatives from Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), Palestine Crops and the Gaza Agricultural Co-operative in Beit Lahiya. This is the second of two articles highlighting what their experiences show: that Palestinians in Gaza face significant and diverse difficulties when it comes to farming their land and harvesting and exporting their produce under siege, and that Israel enforces what amounts to a de facto boycott of produce from the Gaza Strip. The first article, about farmers’ experiences of working the land in Gaza, can be found here.

A dependent economy

“The Israeli occupation allows us to export a small quantity of produce, just to show the world that they are nice to the Palestinians, but they are using us. Everything we do is controlled by them”

Saad Ziada, Union of Agricultural Work Committees

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A queue of goods vehicles approaching the Karam Abu Salem goods crossing in the Gaza Strip. Photo by Corporate Watch December 2013

As a result of economic agreements made during the period of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Palestinian economy as a whole has become totally dependent on Israel. The Paris Protocol, signed in 1994, is an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which outlines the economic relations between the two in the areas of customs, taxes, labour, agriculture, industry and tourism. In theory the protocol was meant to facilitate the free movement of goods, including agricultural produce, and give Palestinians access to international markets, but in practice it has worked as a basis for consolidating Israeli domination of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Whilst Israel benefits from tax free access to markets in the Occupied Territories, Palestinian exports are strictly controlled by Israel and can only be carried out through Israeli companies, hence benefiting the economy of the occupier.

When it comes to the Gaza Strip, the situation for Palestinians is even worse. Since the tightening of the siege in 2007, Israel has implemented a de facto economic boycott of Gaza, with no industrial goods and a minimal amount of agricultural exports being allowed through the Israeli controlled Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) goods crossing only. The Karni (or Al Montar) crossing, which was established as a main terminal in 1994 to facilitate the transfer of goods between the Gaza Strip and Israel, was closed permanently in 2011 as the siege intensified. Before the closure the crossing had been effectively non-operational since Hamas’ takeover of the Strip in 2007, only running a skeleton service through a conveyor belt transporting gravel and animal feed. The Rafah crossing to Egypt is completely closed for exports from Gaza.

Since 2007 farmers in Gaza have been prohibited from selling their produce to Israel and the West Bank, traditionally their biggest markets. Continue reading

Palestinian women’s union calls for a boycott of Israel

In December 2013, Corporate Watch interviewed Taghrid Jooma of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) about the union’s work in Gaza and its view of the international movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions. A video interview with Taghrid is embedded below, to view the video with English subtitles hover over the bottom of the video and click subtitles/cc.

Taghrid told us that “UPWC was established in 1981 in the West Bank to advocate for women’s issues – economic, social and political. It has 3500 members in Gaza. It is a part of the General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW), affiliated to the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Continue reading

Palestinian students call for Barclays boycott over Elbit investment

Barclays stop arming Israel demoPalestinian students have made this call for students around the world to stop banking with Barclays:

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI), a group of Palestinian students in Gaza dedicated to the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign of Israel and the global justice movement for Palestinian justice and liberty, respectfully call on students around the world to stop banking with Barclays until Barclays divests from and ceases trading in shares in Elbit Systems, the major Israeli military company and drone manufacturer. Continue reading