After almost two decades, IDF finally admits to using armed drones in airstrikes

Military censor says ‘no impediment’ to publishing Israel’s attack UAV capabilities; Hermes 450 used in Tuesday strike on Hamas post

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

An IDF drone landing in an airfield on the Golan Heights, on January 20, 2015. (Jack Guez/AFP)
An IDF drone landing in an airfield on the Golan Heights, on January 20, 2015. (Jack Guez/AFP)

After nearly two decades, the Military Censor on Wednesday said Israeli media could finally publish a long-known secret: the Israel Defense Forces uses armed drones to strike targets.

The decision came a day after the IDF struck a Hamas post in the Gaza Strip in response to gunfire toward a town on the border, using an Elbit Hermes 450 armed drone.

“It was found that there is no impediment in publishing the IDF’s use of strike UAVs as part of its operational activities,” the censor said in a brief statement, after examining the issue.

For years the IDF would not state it uses armed drones, and Israeli journalists who attempted to report on it came up against the IDF censor.

Israel has used armed drones to strike numerous targets over the years, and according to reports, as early as the 2006 war in Lebanon and the 2008 war in the Gaza Strip.

Images published by foreign media outlets have shown the Hermes 450 with pods attached to its wings, used to launch small guided munitions.

An Israeli Hermes 450 drone flies above the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on May 29, 2018. (AFP/Jack Guez)

Israeli drones have been used in several targeted killings of Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip, including a leader of the terror group’s military wing, Ahmed Jabari, in 2012.

Drones have also been used in a technique known as “knocking on the roof,” in which an inert missile is fired at the roof of a building to warn residents to leave before the structure is destroyed by armed munitions.

File: The IAF’s 161st Squadron’s fleet of Hermes 450 drones at the Palmachim airbase. (Barak Shalev, Tomer Matzkin/Israeli Air Force)

The Military Censor did not elaborate on what caused it to change its policy, other than saying it had held an “in-depth and topical” review of the matter.

Israel has not disclosed how many attack drones it has. The Hermes 450 is operated by the Air Force’s 161st Squadron.

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