Drone "field tested" on Palestinians to fly over UK

24 February 2014 - 2:00pm
Press release

The Watchkeeper drone, due to fly over British skies this week ahead of trials in Afghanistan, is based on a model that Israel has ‘field tested' in attacks on Gaza which have left scores of Palestinians dead, including children.


Training flights of the Watchkeeper will begin over Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.  The drones will take off from Boscombe Down airfield, marking the first time that a drone has flown in the same airspace as piloted aircraft.

The design and technology of the Watchkeeper is based closely on Israeli arms company Elbit's Hermes 450 model. With its ability to carry missiles and surveillance equipment, the Hermes 450 has been described as the ‘workhorse' of the Israeli military.

In 2005, the UK Ministry of Defence awarded a near-£1 billion contract for the Watchkeeper drone programme to a joint venture between Israel's Elbit and its commercial partner, Thales UK.  
War on Want's report Killer Drones reveals the devastating impact Israel's drones have had on Palestinians.  825 Palestinians died from attacks carried out by drones between June 2006 and October 2011.

The Watchkeeper has been designed to fly over areas longer than existing systems. Drones flying overhead for long periods of time have a documented negative psychological impact on civilians living under constant surveillance.  

The British government is in effect buying technology that has been ‘field-tested' on Palestinians, and deploying it in other parts of the world.

War on Want senior campaigns officer, Rafeef Ziadah, said: “By integrating arms technologies field tested on Palestinians into the British military, the British government is adding to its complicity in Israel's violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. The Watchkeeper programme has been mired in secrecy – it's high time the government publicly explains how it intends to use this drone after British troops have left Afghanistan this year”.  


  • Killer Drones report exposes UK complicity in Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people 
  • Living Under Drones report, from Stanford and New York University found that civilians in Pakistan were being “terrorised” by drones

CONTACT: War on Want Campaigns and Policy Director Jeff Powell (+44) (0)20 7324 5053 or (+44) (0)7817184435



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