Leadership: Digital Maps And The War In Gaza


January 8, 2009: One of the more potent weapons Israel has developed for its current war with Hamas, is a detailed and very current GIS (geographic information system). Such systems are common for use by businesses (for marketing, site selection and so on), and the military has adapted that technology to their use. A GIS is a combination of aerial photography and other databases (land ownership, telephone and utility customers and military intelligence data.) The GIS is stored and accessed as a digital file, and updated frequently (sometimes in real time.) Israel has used their GIS to select targets in Gaza, and then to call the civilians in the target building to tell them to get out before the smart bomb hits. Hamas made these residences into targets by storing weapons and other military equipment there. Some buildings didn't get a phone call, because the building was used by Hamas as a headquarters or barracks.

This use of the GIS explains how Israel bombed over 500 buildings, while killing fewer than 200 civilians. The GIS is equally useful for ground units, making it easier to move through the crowded cities of Gaza, or identify structures encountered in the open areas. Naturally, Israel isn't releasing many, if any, details of their GIS. But it is known that the United States has used a similar system in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. and Israel have been sharing lots of ideas about how best to fight these kinds of urban battles.


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