RUSSIA BOMBING CIVILIANS IN SYRIA USING ISRAELI DRONES: HAARETZ
When Israeli-licensed military drones first took off from Syrian air force bases to stalk opponents of Bashar Assad’s regime, shortly after Russia’s 2015 intervention, they were an oddity, newcomers to a conflict that had already featured military Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) from the United States, Iran, and Turkey.
Now, a clearer picture has emerged of just how pivotal the Russian variant of the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IMI) Searcher II, redubbed "Forpost" by its operators, has played in rescuing the Assad regime from the brink of implosion and helping to maintain its military and balance of terror advantage in the decade-long civil war – with a critical role in (illegally) targeting civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, the New York-based Patrick Hilsman reported for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Despite its Israeli origin, Russia’s military openly boasts that the Forpost is one of its most crucial pieces of technology, a constant presence in the skies above Syria, scoping out targets so human pilots don’t have to risk reconnaissance flights, and assessing bomb damage. In other words: the Forpost helps the Russian military in Syria decide what to bomb, if strikes have inflicted sufficient damage, and when to drop even more bombs.
The categorization of the Forpost as "unarmed" should not absolve the Russian military or the Israeli exporters of responsibility for those crimes against international law, says Sarah Kay, a human rights lawyer and terrorism researcher at Queens University Belfast. Indeed, the role of the Forpost in Syria sharpens an ongoing debate about the culpability of adjunct and remote technology.
"It can’t be classified as a weapon because it doesn’t directly kill," Kay notes, therefore many states "are getting away with facilitating crimes." She elaborates that international law and multilateral agreements, which makes it illegal to target civilians and civilian infrastructure, are struggling to keep up with the increasingly prominent role of surveillance technology in human rights violations, from the Middle East to China.
"We constantly have to play catchup," and that results in "terrible mistakes," where international law fails to properly protect rights and lives.