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Israel’s Use of Dumb Bombs on the Gaza Strip Tells a Different Story, One with an Intent to Kill

posted on: Jan 31, 2024

“IDF troops operate inside the Gaza Strip in a handout photo released for publication on January 7, 2024.”

By: Menal Elmaliki / Arab America Contributing Writer

If bombs are bad, dumb bombs must be worse.

What is a dumb bomb?

According to reports from CNN and The Washington Post, and assessments compiled by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, it is believed that up to 45 percent of the bombs Israel has dropped in Gaza since the start of the Israel- Hamas war are unguided or “dumb bombs.”

A dumb bomb is otherwise known as an unguided bomb and it is less accurate than conventional free-fall bombs. It is less precise because it relies on gravity and atmospheric friction, resulting in greater civilian casualties. This is a war tactic Israel’s military has defended, claiming to have struck over 22,000 terror targets in Gaza since Hamas’s attacks on October 7th.

The usage of these bombs posed a huge threat to an area like the Gaza Strip because it is the most densely populated region in the world with over 2 million people living in an area of 139 square miles. According to AP News, the Gaza Strip is about the same size as Detroit, a city with a population of 1/4 of that of Gaza. The IDF has fired more than 29,000 air-to-ground munitions since October 7th..- This comes as no surprise with the recent intense Israeli raid that killed more than 200 Palestinians in 24 hours.

How small is Gaza?

Marc Garlasco, a war expert who served on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff in 2003, and a former United Nations  military analyst and war crimes investigator, stated that the use of “unguided munitions in a densely populated area like Gaza both greatly increases the chance that a target is missed and that civilians are harmed in the process.” He goes on to state, “Israel has the most technologically advanced weapons in the world and their [precision-guided munitions] have an accuracy of three meters,” he said — but with unguided bombing, munitions can land as far as 30 meters, or about 100 feet, away from their intended target.”

This had caused many to question the motives of Israel. Israel claims they are minimizing collateral damage but their usage of dumb bombs is contradictory and the high civilian death count and untold damage to infrastructure tell a different story.

Why Dumb Bombs on Gaza Breaks International Law

War is destruction, death, pain, and suffering.

War is not akin to death, at times it is worse than death because it is the death of life and civilization. It forces people to restart life with nothing but rumble, fragmented hopes and dreams, a shattered sense of self, and at times psychological damage.

Explosives used during war, especially in populated areas, are not the alleviation but the promotion of human suffering. The problem with the usage of explosive, unguided, weapons on a wide area is that it is usually accompanied by the motive to cause heavy damage as well as kill and injure a large number of civilians in cities, towns, and villages.

When explosive weapons like dumb bombs are used in populated areas it is reported that 90 percent of casualties are civilians. These attacks not only kill civilians but also disrupt daily life, causing damage to pertinent infrastructure and resulting in the displacement of civilians, forcing them to lose their homes, education, healthcare, food, security, and safety. When the bombing is prolonged and intensified it not only kills and disrupts life but also causes psychological distress.

According to international humanitarian law, more especially the Additional Protocol I to Geneva Conventions, which was adopted in 1977, the bombardments of targets in “any city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians” are prohibited. According to Protocol III to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the concentration of civilians is defined as “permanent or temporary, such as in inhabited parts of cities, or inhabited towns or villages, or as in camps or columns of refugees or evacuees, or groups of nomads.”

How Advanced Is Israel’s National Security

Why use dumb bombs when there are precision-guided munitions?

The military in Israel is state of the art, after all technology and national security are interchangeable. Israel faces an existential threat since their sovereignty in 1948 and because they are surrounded by neighboring countries who do not recognize its existence they’ve been forced to modernize and ameliorate their technology. At the cost of independence, they must keep one eye open. Israel is now ranked as one of the top global arms exporters with the help of U.S. aid. Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has given Israel $318 billion in aid to build its armed forces and private defense industry, improve its economy, and improve its missile defense.

According to the weapons transfer deal between Israel and America, publicly put out by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, over 35,000 guided weapons have been provided to Israel in recent years and that does not include the weapons provided this year.

Cybersecurity. Source: Medium

Israel’s cybersecurity and military are a socialized institution. The majority of their tech companies are deeply ingrained in national security and linked to the needs of the IDF. Tech companies have resumed the responsibility of keeping their population and sovereignty safe. Unlike in America, tech companies’ motives go far beyond profit; they are a means of self-defense and national security.

The U.S. has 40% of the world’s startups while Israel has 20%, despite its size it is second in the highest number of tech startups. “The war against Hamas has demonstrated that the foundation of Israel’s military might be the unparalleled collaboration between its military and its technology companies.” Israel’s advancement in cybersecurity is primarily for military purposes and they are popularly known for their Pegasus spyware developed by NSO Group.

Besides Pegasus, Israel is known for their latest military technology called the Arrow 3 and it was first tested on November 9, 2023, to intercept a Houthi missile from Yemen heading to Eilat, a city located south of Israel. This is a self-defense, anti-ballistic missile, that Stark, a U.S.-based subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, manufactured. Israel has been developing and improving their state of the art defense system since the 1980s.

The acme of Israel’s military strength is its Iron Dome air defense system. It was developed by an Israeli company whose primary goal was to protect Israelis from short-range rockets sent from their bordering countries. Israel also developed another revolutionary air defense, the Iron Beam, which uses laser technology to bring down incoming drones or rockets.

The Outrage

The recent report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence of Israel’s use of dumb bombs added to Israel’s well-known advanced weapons and security has led them to lose public support as the death toll rises in Gaza, with many government leaders, officials, and human rights activists. The overall general population beginning to question Israel’s military operations in Gaza.

The war has so far killed more than 22,000 Palestinians and wounded over 56,000 and now the UN Relief and Works Agency warns that 40% of Gaza’s population is at risk of famine. U.S. officials have said that the U.S. has pressured Israel to open the Kerem Shalom border crossing to allow humanitarian aid trucks in and is adamantly rejecting a proposal that “includes Israeli control over Gaza and has warned against shrinking the Palestinian territory boundaries.”

“Damage in Gaza Strip during the October 2023.”

The actions of the U.S. has caused growing concerns as it refuses to call for a cease-fire in this intense months-long conflict but they have urged Israel to be more “precise and deliberate” and only to target Hamas fighters. Yet despite this urge and growing calls by human rights organizations and Democratic lawmakers, the U.S. has not stopped providing weapons to Israel. The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has recently approved the sales of a 147.5 million dollar weapons deal with Israel.

The weapons deal of high explosive artillery shells, ancillary items, fuses, charges, and primers has bypassed congressional review requirements because it was declared an emergency. “This has caused outrage especially with untolled civilian death, damage in the north, and Gazans fleeing to the south amid intensified bombardment and fighting. According to the UN, more than 90% of Gazan’s total population of 2.3 million is now displaced.

The State Department has said in a statement, “Given the urgency of Israel’s defensive needs, the secretary notified Congress that he had exercised his delegated authority to determine an emergency existed necessitating the immediate approval of the transfer.” This isn’t the first time the Biden Administration has given Israel weapons, on Dec. 9, they approved the sale of around 14,000 tank shells. Encouraged by the new weapons deal Israeli officials have stated that the war will continue for many months.

Luciana Zaccara, a professor in Gulf politics at Qatar University called America’s approach a dual track, “On the one hand they are trying to convince the public opinion that the US is concerned about civilian casualties but also they keep sustaining Israel (militarily),” he said. “It is totally contradicting … it is hard to understand how this is in the national interest.” This has come with the Biden administration stating that they are committed to the security of Israel and America’s national interest.

This move by the U.S. has been called “strategically self-defeating” by Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara. Bishara also referred to the move as morally scandalous, he stated, “One really has to look deep to see if there is any meaningful explanation for why the Biden administration wants to bypass Congress in order to expedite weapons to a country that is involved in war crimes.” America is essentially funding a collective punishment of the people of Gaza. It was reported that by mid-December, Israel had dropped 29,000 bombs, munitions, and shells on the Gaza Strip, destroying almost 70% of homes. Israeli authorities are also preventing humanitarian aid and imposing restrictions on humanitarian access.

It’s Criticism 

Rep. Steve Cohen went on social media to criticize the latest news of unguided bombs, “Netanyahu has gone way too far and Jake Sullivan will be informing him that the bombing must be greatly limited or Israel will be without its last real friend.” 

The Biden administration is trying to do damage control with their recent million-dollar weapons deal with Israel by calling their bombing campaign indiscriminate and quietly putting pressure on them to kill fewer civilians. Despite the administration’s tiptoe scrutiny and pressing for more “precise targeting,” they have not given Israel a deadline. There has been growing scrutiny from rights groups and those of Biden’s own party, criticizing the U.S. military’s support of Israel and its ammunition deal. Israel is slowly losing international support as it becomes clear that this is no longer a war of self-defense but collective punishment with the death toll surpassing over 20,000.

A Dumb Bomb but a Clear Motive

After 4 months of war, Gaza is described as a moonscape, with its landscape uninhabitable and ruined. The months-long bombing campaign is considered the most devastating in modern history with the destruction of homes, schools, and other important buildings. The World Health Organization has reported that 27 out of 35 hospitals across Gaza are not operating.

Nearly 1 million Palestinians have fled the north as the shelling and ground combat intensified. North Gaza has been described as a ghost town, with almost half of the buildings totaled and with the U.N. estimating 1.7 million of them are homeless. Many of the Palestinians in the refugee camp of Jabaliya in southern Gaza have admitted that they do not see a future for their children here.

“Palestinians inspect the ruins of Aklouk Tower destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on October 8, 2023.” (Wikimedia Commons)

Israel has stated that civilian death and destruction are unavoidable and has accused Hamas of using civilian sites as a cover for its operations and as human shields. An Israeli military spokesman defended the use of unguided bombs, stating, “The IDF strikes military targets of the Hamas terrorist organization based on high-quality intelligence, while using high-quality munitions that skilled pilots and advanced systems operate. The type of munitions used in each strike is determined according to the characteristics of the target, the operational need, and the effort to mitigate harm to civilians.”

Meanwhile, IDF spokesperson Nir Dina had informed CNN that they do “not address the type of munitions used.” Israel has made a response that the IDF only aims to strike military targets or those of the Hamas terrorist organization, they go on to say that their munitions are operated by skilled pilots advanced systems are used and the civilian deaths killed are those used as human shields.

On the contrary, Hamas denies Israel’s claims and has accused them of reckless bombing. The Israel and Hamas war is being called a losing battle, with its purpose unclear with Hamas neither killed nor destroyed. It seemed the war served the selfish interest of Netanyahu who is still postponing any investigation into what led to the security failures of Oct. 7. Despite, Israel’s advanced military technology they have not been able to rescue the hostages. According to the Times, some 136 hostages remain in Gaza, and around 25 are “known” to be dead.

According to the expertise of Marc Garlasco, who specializes in civilian protection, war crimes investigations, and identification of weapons, having served as the chief of high-value targeting at the Defense Intelligence Agency from 1997 to 2003, and senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch up until 2010, precision-guided munitions make about a three-meter error while with an unguided bomb, there is the chance of missing your target by 100 feet.

The recent revelation of Israel’s operations tells a different motive, one that goes beyond the dismantling of Hamas with overwhelming evidence of Israel targeting civilians. Evidence of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing that breaks international law, is the demolishment of more residential blocks and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, churches, mosques, ambulances, and UN facilities, than Hamas locations of operations.

Emily Tripp, the director of Airwars, a London-based conflict monitor, has stated that Israel’s munitions bombardment has become one of the most intense and deadliest air campaigns since World War II. The IDF’s usage of powerful explosives and dumb bombs in tightly packed residential areas has some calling it morally unacceptable and evil. Many are claiming Israel’s overwhelming evidence of deliberate civilian killing is done out of intimidation and insecurity, with their aim of displacing Palestinians and demoralizing them.

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