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IDF preparing to use armed drones in West Bank operations

Amid rise in violence, senior West Bank commanders undergo training to be ready to order Air Force to strike targets with UAVs

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

An Elbit Hermes 900 is seen flying during Operation Breaking Dawn in early August 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
An Elbit Hermes 900 is seen flying during Operation Breaking Dawn in early August 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces is readying units in the West Bank to potentially make use of armed drones during counterterrorism raids, according to a Tuesday night television report.

The Kan news report said the head of IDF forces in the West Bank and the commander of a brigade in charge of the Jenin and Tulkarem areas recently underwent training to be able to manage an Air Force squad that operates the drones.

The IDF confirmed the report to The Times of Israel.

There have been no reports of armed drones being used to strike targets in the West Bank. In the past, Israel has used attack helicopters in the West Bank, but only in special circumstances and not as a matter of routine.

IDF troops have repeatedly come under gunfire during nightly raids in the West Bank, during a months-long effort against Palestinian terrorists.

The military launched the operation, dubbed Breakwater, after a series of deadly attacks that killed 19 people between mid-March and the beginning of May. More than 1,500 suspects have been detained since the start of the operation.

Illustrative: Gunmen fire on Israeli forces during a raid in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, May 13, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The near-nightly gun battles have largely ended without injuries to Israeli troops, but in May a veteran of the elite Yamam counterterror police unit was killed, as forces were wrapping up an operation that included raids on terror suspects’ homes.

Armed drones were heavily used during Israel’s recent fighting against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in the Gaza Strip.

An IAF drone operator is seen during Operation Breaking Dawn, in an image published by the military on August 17, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Until recently, talk of Israel’s armed drones was barred from publication by the Military Censor. For years the IDF would not confirm it uses armed drones, and Israeli journalists who attempted to report on it came up against the IDF censor.

The IDF said that drones make up about 80% of the total operational flight hours in the Air Force. Israel has not disclosed how many attack drones it has.

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