Assorted Drones

Open source information on non-state actors weapon arsenal is difficult to glean due to their lack of transparency. MilitaryEdge.org has created broad categories, when necessary, of non-state actors weaponry to provide a general sense of capabilities.

In recent years, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Islamic State have attempted to develop drone programs.

Hamas

During the summer war with Hamas in 2014, the Gaza-based terrorist group flew a medium-sized UAV into Israeli airspace which was quickly shot down by an Israeli Patriot missile system. In video released by Hamas after the incident, the drone, which Hamas calls the ‘Ababil 1,’ appears to be homemade with four small rockets that are never launched. Israeli defense officials speculate that Hamas possesses more but referred to them as “model airplanes’ implying that they are relatively unsophisticated.

In November 2012, Israel targeted Hamas’ UAV infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Air Force “inflicted severe damage to Hamas’ UAV infrastructure,” the Israel Defense Forces stated.

Press reports suggest that Hamas captured a small number of Israeli drones crashed in Gaza and the group could be trying to reverse-engineer them.

Hezbollah

Since 2002, Hezbollah has been in the possession of drones. According to Israeli media reports, Hezbollah has recently taken steps to enhance its UAV arsenal, much of which is believed to be variants of the Iranian Ababil drone.

The exact size of Hezbollah’s drone fleet is unclear. A recent report in the Israeli media suggested Hezbollah had 200. However, in 2009, Israeli officials told their American counterparts that they assessed that Hezbollah had only “several” Ababil drones. And, in 2006, an Israeli expert suggested Hezbollah had no more than 30 Ababil drones.

Over the past decade, Hezbollah has sent drones on a couple of occasions into Israeli airspace. For example, in 2004, Hezbollah sent an Iranian-made drone into Israeli territory. The following year, another Hezbollah drone entered Israeli airspace. And, during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, a number of Hezbollah drones were eliminated by Israel.

In October 2012, the Israeli Air Force shot down a Hezbollah drone that was flying over the northern Negev. Following the incident, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, said, “It is our natural right to send other reconnaissance flights inside occupied Palestine…. This is not the first time and will not be the last. We can reach any place we want.”

Hezbollah may have successfully used an armed drone in August 2016, when footage emerged of what appears to be a small quad-copter dropped grenade-sized munitions on Syrian rebel positions. While fairly crude, the method appears to utilize abundantly available artillery sub-munitions and commercially sold UAVs to conduct lethal attacks.

Islamic State (ISIS)

In August 2014, the Islamic State released a video displaying what appears to be drone surveillance footage from over a Syrian military base in Raqqa governorate. Though the actual drone cannot be seen, it appears to be a small quadcopter which are common on the civilian marketplace. Though the Islamic State has not declared owning more drones, given their  low cost and high availability, it is likely that more small surveillance UAVs are in their possession.

Reports emerged in December 2015, that ISIS was packing small tactical UAVs with explosives to use as improvised suicide drones. It was not until October 2016 that one of these explosive-packed UAVs successfully was used by the terror group, killing two Iraqi Kurdish fighters and wounding two French special operation advisors.

Egypt says three militants killed, 74 arrested in Sinai raids

Egyptian security forces killed three suspected militants and arrested 74 others in raids targeting militant groups in North Sinai in recent days, the military said in a statement on Thursday. Egypt faces an Islamist insurgency led by the Islamic State group in the Sinai Peninsula, where hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed since 2013. The military did not name a specific militant group or release the names of those killed but said the militants were “highly dangerous”.

U.N. pleads for end of Yemen blockade or ‘untold thousands’ will die

The heads of three U.N. agencies urged the Saudi-led military coalition on Thursday to lift its blockade of Yemen, warning that “untold thousands” would die if it stayed in place. The coalition closed all air, land and sea access to Yemen on Nov. 6 following the interception of a missile fired towards the Saudi capital, saying it had to stem the flow of arms from Iran to its Houthi opponents in the war in Yemen. Yemen already has 7 million people on the brink of famine, but without the reopening of all ports that number could grow by 3.2 million, the heads of the World Food Programme, UNICEF and the World Health Organization said in a joint statement.

Israeli army chief says ready to share information with Saudi Arabia

The Israeli army’s chief of staff told an Arabic language online newspaper that Israel was ready to share “intelligence information” with Saudi Arabia, saying their countries had a common interest in standing up to Iran. Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot told the privately Saudi-owned Elaph in what it said was his first interview with an Arabic newspaper that Israel had no plans to attack Lebanon’s Hezbollah group. Saudi Arabia has ratcheted up pressure on arch-foe Iran, accusing Tehran of trying to expand its influence in Arab countries, often through proxies including the Lebanese Shi‘ite Hezbollah group.

Details remain vague after four more US strikes against AQAP in Yemen | FDD

The US military has conducted at least four more strikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the last two months, according to data acquired by FDD’s Long War Journal. But US Central Command (CENTCOM) has still not released details on any strikes against AQAP in Yemen in 2017. FDD’s Long War Journal has twice inquired with CENTCOM about strikes against AQAP in Yemen in 2017. In mid-Sepember, CENTCOM told us the number was “more than 100.” Yesterday, CENTCOM told us the number was “more than 110,” six of which were conducted against the Islamic State.

Iraqi forces recapture last Islamic State-held town

Iraqi forces on Friday captured the border town of Rawa, the last remaining town under Islamic State control, signaling the collapse of the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate. Rawa’s capture marks the end of Islamic State’s era of territorial rule over a so-called caliphate that it proclaimed in 2014 across vast swathes of Iraq and Syria. Iraqi forces “liberated Rawa entirely, and raised the Iraqi flag over its buildings,” Lieutenant General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah said in a statement from the Joint Operations Command.

Erdogan says Turkey pulls troops out of NATO exercise, Stoltenberg apologiz

Turkey is pulling 40 soldiers out of a NATO exercise in Norway, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday, after his name appeared in a list of enemies on a poster at the drill, an incident that drew an apology from both the military alliance and Oslo. Turkey has the second largest army in the alliance after the United States, and it borders Syria, Iraq and Iran, lending it great strategic importance for NATO. But the relationship has become increasingly fractious as Ankara drifts away from the alliance and the European Union, alarming the West.

Syrian army, allies take back Albu Kamal from Islamic State

The Syrian army and its allies took complete control over Albu Kamal, Islamic State’s last significant town in Syria, a military news service run by Hezbollah said on Sunday. The army had declared victory over Islamic State in Albu Kamal earlier this month but the jihadists then staged a counter-attack using sleeper cells hidden in the town. Driving Islamic State from Albu Kamal means only a few villages along the Euphrates and patches of nearby desert, as well as isolated pockets in other parts of the country, remain in Syria of the caliphate it declared in 2014.

Deep in Yemen war, Saudi fight against Iran falters

At a hospital in the Yemeni city of Marib, demand for artificial limbs from victims of the country’s war is so high that prosthetics are made on site in a special workshop. A soldier with an artificial arm hitches up his robe to reveal a stump where his leg once was. He is angry that authorities have done little to help him since he was wounded. “I was at the front and a mortar exploded near me. We fought well, but now I get no salary, no support from the government or anyone. They just left us,” said Hassan Meigan.

Syria declares victory over Islamic State

Syria’s army declared victory over Islamic State on Thursday, saying its capture of the jihadists’ last town in the country marked the collapse of their project in the region. The army and its allies are still fighting Islamic State in desert areas near Albu Kamal, the last town the militant group had held in Syria, near the border with Iraq, the army said. But the capture of the town ends Islamic State’s era of territorial rule over the so-called caliphate that it proclaimed in 2014 across Iraq and Syria and in which millions suffered under its hardline, repressive strictures.

Iran’s Velayati says east Syria, Idlib to be cleared ‘soon’

The top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader said he expects the Syrian army to soon recapture rebel-held Idlib province, as well as eastern Syria, an area where U.S.-backed militias hold swathes of territory. Iran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Iranian official, Ali Akbar Velayati, was speaking in Aleppo, from which the Syrian army drove rebels after a siege last year with help from Tehran. The military alliance backing Assad, which also includes Russia and Shi‘ite Muslim militias, has this year focused on the war in central and eastern Syria against Islamic State (IS) militants.

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