Israeli Drone Strikes in Gaza in November 2012 Attack: Two-Thirds Killed Were Civilians

More Palestinians Killed by Drones Alone in eight DAYS than Israelis Killed by rockets in eight YEARS

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Heron Drone  

Two-thirds of Palestinians killed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) drones in the November, 2012 attack on Gaza were civilians. 

This statistic means that for the residents of Gaza, the ground-breaking investigation by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights into the civilian impact and human rights implications of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killing is very important.

Data taken from reports of two human rights groups in Gaza documented that, of the 162 Palestinians killed during the eight-day attack, drone strikes killed 36 and injured 100. 24 of the 36 killed in Gaza by Israeli drones were civilians. Drone strikes (72) were 5 percent of the total Israeli military strikes (1,350) but accounted for 23 percent of the deaths in Gaza, a very high percentage of deaths from the number of drone strikes when compared with deaths from strikes of jet warplanes, artillery and naval bombardment.

The UN team will investigate drone strikes and their effects on civilians around the world, but primarily the United States and United Kingdom's drone strikes in Afghanistan, the US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and the Philippines and Israeli drone strikes in Gaza.

The objective of the UN investigation is "to look at evidence to determine if drone strikes and other forms of remote targeted killing have caused disproportionate civilian casualties and to make recommendations concerning the duty of States to conduct thorough, independent and impartial investigations into such allegations, with a view to securing accountability and reparation where things have gone badly wrong with potentially grave consequences for civilians." The statistics indicate that Israeli drone strikes did cause disproportionate Palestinian civilian casualties.

The Israeli military publicly identified on its website 1,500 targets in Gaza that it intended to destroy in its mid-November, 2012 military operation (named "Pillar of Clouds"). The targets named on its website were 30 Hamas and Jihad leaders, 19 high-level command centers, 980 underground rocket launchers, 140 smuggling tunnels, 66 tunnels used for "terrorist" actions, 42 Hamas operations rooms and bases and 26 weapons manufacturing and storage facilities.

For many years, both the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and the Al Mazen Centre for Human Rights have had field workers who investigate the frequent, almost daily, Israeli jet plane, drone, helicopter and artillery attacks, naval bombardment attacks and naval firing at Gaza fishermen. The investigators talk with survivors of the attacks and photograph the destruction caused by the attacks and remains of the ordnance found at the attack site.

Following the 14-21 November 2012, eight-day Israeli attack on Gaza, the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights produced a 67-page report titled "Field Report on Israel's Attacks on Gaza 14-21 November 2012." The Palestinian Center for Human Rights documented its findings for this period in its "Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Territories 14-21 November, 2012."

Both reports provide a region-by-region, day-by-day, attack-by-attack account of individual Israeli military strikes in Gaza. Using information from the reports of both human rights organizations, data documented that the Israeli Defense Forces conducted 72 Israeli drone strikes using 100 missiles during the November 2012 attack on Gaza. Source link is here.

The Al Mezan report documents that at least 162 Palestinians were killed in IDF attacks, including 37 children and 13 women. (Later reports  state that 178 were killed.) Another 1,039 people were injured, including 315 children and 191 women. At least 963 houses were damaged or destroyed, including 92 completely. Of those 92 houses, 52 were directly attacked; including 35 "roof-knocking" attacks to indicate to residents that the house was about to be destroyed by a second attack. Another 179 houses sustained serious damage. Additionally, IDF attacks caused damage to 10 health centers, 35 schools, two universities, 15 NGO offices, 30 mosques, 14 media offices, 92 industrial and commercial facilities, one UNRWA food distribution center, eight government ministry buildings, 14 police/security stations, five banks, 34 vehicles, three youth clubs, three cemeteries, and two bridges.

Scout Drone

Data from the Al Mezan and PCHR reports on IDF drone attacks on Gaza identify that:

Drone strikes killed 36 persons, including 4 children under the age of 16, and wounded 100 persons. 

24 of the 36, or two thirds, of those killed by drone strikes were considered to be civilians.

12 of 36 were considered by at least one of the human rights organizations to be a part of an armed group.

Eight drone missile strikes targeted persons on motorcycles, including 6 alleged armed individuals.

Six drone missile strikes targeted persons in cars or trucks, including one alleged armed group in a car,

22 drone strikes targeted houses and/or persons in houses, including three "roof-knock" attacks prior to IDF jets bombing the houses. 18 housing units were destroyed, 52 housing units were damaged, as were six stores, one mosque and one hospital, either in the drone strike, or jet attacks after the attack. Many more housing units were destroyed by jets not in conjunction with drones. Six housing units identified with alleged leaders of armed groups were targeted by drones.

27 drone missile strikes targeted groups of persons who were in the open outside of buildings, with 12 of the groups called "armed groups" by at least one of the human rights organizations.

Hermes 450 drone 

Drone strikes by region in Gaza

Both human rights organizations documented all IDF strikes by region. Following is the data on drone strikes only by region:

Northern Gaza Area

In the Northern Gaza area, the Israeli military killed 23 people and wounded 61 in 37 drone strikes using 44 missiles.

The 23 persons killed by drones were aged 20, 18, 29, 27, 22, 27, 42, 10, 36, 6, 51, 32, 21, 20, 17, 31, 23, 22, 48, 19, 12, 28, and 22 (including three children ages six, 10 and 12).

17 killed by drones in Northern Gaza were civilians, including three children.

Six killed by drones were considered part of an armed group by at least one of the human rights organizations of Gaza. (Essam Mahmoud Abu Al-Meiza, 19; Mohammed Ibrahim Hani al-Kassih, 18; Mohammed Muhaisen al-Barrawi, 22; Abdul Rahman Mustafa Hamad, 31; Mohammed Adnan al-Ashqar, 22; Mohammed Shihada, 23).

Three who were  injured in drone attacks were considered to be part of armed groups by at least one of the human rights organizations of Gaza.

21 individuals or groups of people outside of buildings were targeted by drones; three persons were targeted on two motorcycles and were identified as militants by at least one of the Gaza human rights organizations. Four cars were targets. IDF drones destroyed six housing units and damaged 37 housing units, six stores and one mosque. There were three "roof-knocking" drone strikes. In Northern Gaza, there were two drone strikes on November 14, one on November 15, three on November 16, eight on November 18, six on November 19, six on November 20 and 12 on November 21.

Approximately 298 Israeli jet warplane strikes were made in Northern Gaza, 10 artillery strikes and four naval bombardments with approximately 82 shells.

Gaza City Area

In the Gaza City area, the IDF conducted seven drone strikes using 11 missiles. No one was killed or injured by drone strikes in Gaza City.

IDF drones primarily targeted housing in Gaza city, destroying four housing units and damaging four housing units. Two houses reportedly belonged to members of armed groups. A drone strike damaged the Jordanian hospital. Three of the drone strikes were classified as "roof knocking" strikes.

The IDF made one drone strike (with three missiles) in the Gaza City area on November 17, one drone strike on November 18, two drone strikes on November 19 (with four missiles) and two drone strikes (with two missiles) on November 20.  

However, over 120 jet warplane strikes were made in the Gaza City area and two naval bombardments.

Middle Gaza (Deir al_Balah) Area

In the Middle Gaza area (Deir al-Balah), no drone strikes were reported.

However, Middle Gaza had approximately 137 Israeli jet warplane strikes, eight artillery strikes and five naval bombardments.

Khan Younis Area

In the Khan Younis area, IDF drones killed three persons in 12 drone strikes in which 20 missiles were fired. 14 persons were injured by drone, three of those injured were considered a part of an armed group by one of the human rights organizations of Gaza. 

The three persons were killed were ages 24, 80 and 15 and none were considered part of an armed group by the human rights groups of Gaza. Four persons on two motorcycles were targeted and were considered part of armed groups by at least one of the Gaza human rights organizations. Three groups or individuals were targeted outside buildings. Four housing units were destroyed and seven housing units were damaged, including the homes of two al Qassam members/leaders and one Hamas leader as identified by at least one human rights organization in Gaza. Three drone strikes were classified as "roof-knocking" strikes. Three drone strikes in the Khan Younis area occurred on November 16, four on November 17, four on November 18 and one on November 21.

The IDf made approximately 113 jet warplane strikes, eight artillery strikes and one naval bombardment in the Khan Younis area.

Rafah Area

In the Rafah area, IDF drones killed 11 persons and injured 25, including four children in 16 drone strikes, using 24 missiles. Five of those killed were considered civilians.

The 11 persons who were killed were ages 36, 23, 24, 25, 36, 26, 21, 27, 30, 26, and  one elderly whose age was not given .

Six of those killed were considered to be a part of armed groups by at least one of Gaza's human rights organizations (Mokhlis Odwan, 36; Mohammed Saleh al-Loulahi, 24; Abdul Rahman Salem al Masri, 23; Ahmed Ussama al-Atrash, 24; Awad al-Nahal, 25, Hossam Al-Zene, 30).

Drones targeted and destroyed eight houses, including two houses belonging to two al Qassam Brigade members, and damaged four houses. Two houses that were targeted were classified as "roof knocking." The IDF targeted persons considered as a part of armed groups by at least one of the human rights organizations in Gaza on 2 motorcycles, in   two cars and in two groups of people outside of buildings.

The IDF made two drone strikes (with three missiles) in the Rafah area on November 16, seven drone strikes (with 11 missiles) on November 17, three drone strikes (with three missiles) on November 18, one drone strike (with one missile) on November 19 and two drone strikes (with four missiles) on November 20.

Besides drone strikes, the IDF made approximately 255 jet warplane strikes, eight artillery strikes and one naval bombardment in the Rafah area.

Listing of specific drone strikes by region

So readers may observe how the data was complied, a listing of specific entries concerning drones in both the Al Mazen and the PCHR reports are provided.  Reading both of reports completely is very useful for a better understanding of the intensity of the large number of drone, jet, and land and sea artillery strikes in the small geographic area of Gaza, 25 miles long and five miles wide.

Three Israeli Drone Squadrons

The Israeli Air Force has three drone squadrons. The "200 Squadron" was established in 1971 and used drones in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The Scout (Zahavan) drone was used in the 1982 Lebanon War. In 1992, the squadron began flying the Searcher (Hugla) drone. A second version of the Searcher (II) drone became operational in 1998. In 2005-2006, the Heron and Heron TP (Shoval and Eitan) drones were added to the Squadron. The "200 Squadron" also operates the Ryan Firebee I and II and the BQM-74 Chukar drones.

The "166 Squadron" was established in 2003 and operates the Elbit/Silver Arrow Hermes 450 (Zik) drones.

Both the "166 and "200" drone squadrons are flown from the Palmachin Air Force Base located on the Mediterranean Sea near the cities of Rishon LeZion and Yavne, near the Soreq nuclear research center. It is about 20 miles north, northeast of Gaza. 200 drones are located at Palmachim as well as two helicopter squadrons, the Israeli rocket testing and space launch facilities. Shaldag (Unit 5101), an Israeli special operations unit specializing in counter terrorism and hostage rescue, is also based at Palmachim.

A third drone squadron, the "210 Squadron" was formed in 2010 to fly Hermes/Eitan drones from the Tel Nof Air Force Base, one of three principal airbases of the Israeli Air Force. It is located is located near Rehovot, Israel, and is the home of airborne combat search and rescue units and is the home of the paratroopers training center for the Israeli military. The Tel Nof Air Base is about 17 miles north of Gaza.

Photos of 22 types of drones developed by commercial aircraft industries in Israel and tested by the Israeli defense forces can be seen here.

As in previous Israeli attacks, Palestinians in Gaza were killed by the IDF in a disproportionate number compared to the Israelis that were killed from missile attacks coming from Gaza. 

The Israeli Defense Force stated that 1,506 rockets were fired from Gaza with more than 800 rockets landing in Israel. 421 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system and 152 rockets actually landed in Gaza, not in Israel. Five Israeli civilians and one soldier were killed due to rocket fire, and 240 Israeli civilians were injured.

27 times more Palestinians were killed in the eight-day attack than Israelis (162 to six) by the air, land and sea forces of the Israeli military.

B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, published that in the eight-year period from June 2004 to 17 November 2012, 32 persons have been killed by rocket fired from Gaza-23 Israeli civilians (four of them minors) and one foreign national were killed in Israel, three Israeli soldiers were killed, one in Israel and two in the Gaza Strip by rockets and another Israeli civilian and three foreign nationals were killed by rocket fire at settlements in the Gaza Strip, before they were evacuated. Palestinian rocket fire also killed at least nine Palestinians (six of them minors). One Israeli civilian (a minor in Israel) and one soldier (in the Gaza Strip) were killed by an anti-tank missile fire. A total of 42 persons have been killed by rocket and mortar fire, and two persons have been killed by anti-tank missiles.

More Palestinians were killed by drones alone (37) in the November, 2013 eight day attack, than Israelis killed in 8 YEARS by rockets from Gaza (32).

But that statistic pales with the overall numbers of Palestinians killed in Gaza by the IDF in the past 8 years — 3,932.

(The number 3,932 was obtained from al Mazen reports for 2004-2011 that listed 3,370 Palestinians killed and 162 are added for 2012. The 2012 number may increase with other deaths from earlier in 2012 that were not included).


Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience." ( She has written frequently on rape in the military.

Ann Wright is on the steering committee of Gaza's Ark.


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