Israel wraps up drone exercise with US, European forces near Tel Aviv
Israel on Thursday wrapped up its first joint international military exercise for drone operators, held two months after its offensive against the besieged Gaza Strip that relied heavily on drone surveillance and strikes.
The fighting in May left 260 Palestinians dead, including 66 children, while in Israel, 13 people were killed, including a soldier.
The 10-day exercise at the Palmachim Air Base, near a beach south of Tel Aviv, included drone operators from the United States, Britain, Italy, Germany and France.
The objective of the exercise was "to position the Israeli army as a leader in the area of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA)," said Brigadier General Amir Lazar, head of the Air Force's air division.
The joint drill saw pilots from guest countries conduct exercises under Israeli army supervision.
Lazar said that 80 percent of the Israeli army's operational flight hours were currently being conducted by RPAs.
The drill was planned before the conflict in May between Israel and Palestinian armed groups.
An Israeli army official said drones carried out 6,000 operational hours during the 11- day conflict.
"This is more than ever before," an official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that in some instances multiple drones were deployed simultaneously on the same target.
The data indicated that Israel had drones operating over Gaza around the clock during the 10 May to 21 May conflict, carrying out both surveillance and strikes in conjunction with attack helicopters and fighter jets.