Israel military admits it uses armed drones

JERUSALEM, July 20 (Reuters) - Israel's military censors have lifted a ban on reporting the country's use of armed drones, an official said on Wednesday, ending an open secret by admitting that the armed forces have unmanned attack aircraft and have used them.

Palestinians have accused Israel of using armed drones in targeted killings in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, something never confirmed by Israel, which had previously barred all publication of news on the issue.

There have also been numerous international news reports of Israeli drones attacking targets in Lebanon and Iran, which have never been confirmed officially by Israel.

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A statement from the military censor said that after consideration of the issue, "it was found that there was no impediment to publishing the IDF's use of armed UAVs as part of its operational activities."

Israel has one of the largest drone fleets in the Middle East and is among the region's biggest exporters of drone technology but most of its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) are unarmed reconnaissance aircraft.

The war in Ukraine and the 2020 war between Armenia and Azerbaijan have underscored the vital role played by both unarmed reconnaissance UAVs and attack drones in destroying tanks and other armoured vehicles.

The Bayraktar drone developed by Turkey has been particularly successful, becoming a byword for a shift in the balance of battlefield advantage in favour of relatively low-cost drones over heavy armour.

In April, the German parliament's budget committee gave the green light to funding for the acquisition of missiles to be fitted to the German military's fleet of Heron TP drones, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries.

A censorship officer said that while a generalised ban on reporting the existence of armed drones had been lifted, reporting specific technical details or operations would still be subject to review before publication could be approved.

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Reporting by Dan Williams; writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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