EU funding drone technology used by Israel in Gaza war, claim monitors

EU funding drone technology used by Israel in Gaza war, claim monitors

The European Union has helped fund drone technology used by Israel in its devastating war against Gaza, two monitors have claimed.

Statewatch and Informationsstelle Militarisierung (IMI) found in an analysis that Xtend - a drone manufacturer supporting the Israeli Defence Force - received a research and development grant from the EU's Horizon Europe fund.

"Other Israeli military companies and institutions received millions of euros for drone development in recent years, despite a supposed prohibition on EU funding for military and defence projects," they added.

The European Commission has been approached for comment.

Xtend received €50,000 from Horizon Europe, a multi-billion research and innovation fund, to produce a study on optimising its Skylord Xtender drone system and finding "strategic partners for the production and commercialisation of the technology," Statewatch and IMI wrote in a statement published on Friday.

The company then signed contracts with the US Department of Defence in 2021, which involved Israel's military, according to the monitors. 

Palestinians walk through the destruction from the Israeli offensive in Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.
Palestinians walk through the destruction from the Israeli offensive in Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. - Mahmoud Essa/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

Following Hamas' 7 October attack on southern Israel, Xtend has "redirected energies to supporting the IDF 100%,” CEO Aviv Shapira told CTECH.

On its website, which features testimonials from Israeli troops in Gaza, Xtend says it enables "soldiers to perform accurate manoeuvres in complex combat scenarios."

"Human rights groups have called on the EU to suspend its association agreement with Israel due to the disastrous effects of the latter’s assault on Gaza: huge civilian casualties, mass displacement and the razing of infrastructure," said Statewatch director Chris Jones.

"This report shows that the EU also needs to take a long, hard look at the companies it provides with research and development funding.

"Public money should be used for the public good, not to support companies that profit from war and destruction," he added.

EU treaties prohibit financing “expenditure arising from operations having military or defence implications.”

The Statewatch-IMI report reported several other EU-funded projects through which millions of euros in public money was given to Israeli companies and institutions, including the country’s Ministry of Defence.

Israel's Ministry of Defence has been involved in at least two EU-backed drone research projects in recent years – ResponDrone and UnderSec – receiving a total of €200,000 for its work, the monitors detailed.

They report that ResponDrone, which began in May 2019, received almost €8 million in EU funding for its efforts to develop an unmanned aerial system to support emergency services and search and rescue operations.

Meanwhile, UnderSec has been awarded €6 million in funding from Brussels to develop systems "featuring multimodal sensors and robotic assets” that can be used in drone technology.

Both projects have "clear potential military applications," the report claimed.

This is not the first time EU funding for Israeli military and defence projects has been questioned.

In February, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Clare Daly raised concerns that Horizon Europe money- funded by European taxpayers - was being allocated to controversial Israeli-made Pegasus spyware, used to target journalists and politicians around the world.

"From the beginning, the EU's 'security research' aimed at dual-use and was a gift to the European, Turkish and Israeli arms industry," said Christoph Marischka of the IMI.

"It is a logical consequence that the outcomes of this research are now applied on various battlefields - like Gaza."

In 2021, a group of 60 left and green MEPs urged the European Commission to suspend Israel's participation in Horizon Europe, claiming the country does not respect the values the EU purports to enshrine in the €95.5 billion research and innovation programme.

MEPs said at the time Israel should be barred until it ensures the rights of Palestinians.

Research and innovation "cannot come at the expense of the respect for human rights and the rule of international law," they said.