TEL AVIV, Israel - The Israeli army has approved using drones to carry out assassinations in the West Bank.
The extraordinary measure was reportedly given the green light on Wednesday of this week.
The Jerusalem Post says the order was made by Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi.
Drones are already being used in the West Bank as cover and for intelligence during operations, as well as for general intelligence-gathering.
Israeli army incursions into the West Bank are frequent, mostly to carry out arrests. On Wednesday, Israeli troops entered the Jenin refugee camp to arrest a Palestinian who is the brother of a man who allegedly killed 3 Israelis in Tel Aviv in April. The raid into the camp was met by heavy gunfire. At the end of the shoot-out, four Palestinians were dead and 44 injured, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Following the incident, the IDF chief met with Central Command chief Maj.-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs and West Bank Division Commander Brig.-Gen. Avi Blot, and was presented with an updated assessment of the region, the Post report said.
'During the meeting, the use of the aerial platforms was discussed by the senior officers.'
'It's believed that the order was given as the continued violence threatens to drag Israel into a more extensive operation in the northern West Bank, similar to Operation Defensive Shield in 2002,' the Jerusalem Post said.
While "no one has an interest in launching a large-scale operation," should the situation continue to deteriorate, "it can happen," Israel's Interior Minister Omer Bar Lev told Army Radio on Thursday.
Israel is "making targeted efforts and countermeasures" in an attempt to prevent such a scenario. "The possibility that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad could join in from the Gaza Strip should we launch an operation, will not deter us," Bar Lev was quoted as saying by the Post.
Drones have been used for targeted killings of members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza since 2008, however, they have yet to be used for assassinations in the West Bank.
'While the international press has reported the use of these drones by the Israel Air Force for at least the past 20 years, which has been extensively documented in U.S. diplomatic cables as well as at international air shows, the IDF never publicly disclosed the use of such platforms. Israeli journalists who attempted to publish information from those reports were blocked by the censor,' the Jerusalem Post report said.
(Images credit: IDF).