The Swiss parliament on Monday green-lit the acquisition of six Israeli surveillance drones, an internally controversial deal whose cost is estimated at some 250 million Swiss francs ($256 million).
After an earlier approval by the lower house of the Swiss Federal Assembly, the upper house gave its okay as well, with a vote of 30 to 12.
The drone model in question ise the Elbit Systems-produced Hermes 900, an unarmed reconnaissance vehicle.
Opponents of the deal have called on the country not to invest in the Israeli military industry due to what they called the “systematic violations of human rights” committed by Israel against the Palestinians.
Socialist Geraldine Savary said the Hermes 900 drones were used by Israel during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, which killed 2,251 Palestinians. Israel says around half of those killed were terror operatives, and blames Hamas for the civilian deaths.
“Israel does not respect the rights of people, sometimes by extremely violent means,” said another opponent, Luc Recordon of the Green Party, as quoted by Swiss news agency ATS.
Swiss Defense Minister Ueli Maurer has insisted that Switzerland did not buy the drones from the Israeli state, but rather a private company.
He said the aircraft would only be used for surveillance operations by border guards. “It’s not a combat model, but it plays a pathfinder role. We do not intend to arm it,” he said, according to ATS.
In addition, Maurer noted that while the neutral Switzerland bans arms sales to countries in a state of war — Israel included — there is no such prohibition on purchases.