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High-tech warheads turn Israel’s dumb bombs into precision weapons

Israeli air strike in northern Gaza
Israeli air strike in northern Gaza - ARIS MESSINIS/AFP

The US is helping convert Israel’s bombs into precision weapons in an attempt to limit the heavy civilian casualties during its military campaign in Gaza.

High-tech Spice (smart precision impact cost effective) kits worth $320million (£252million), which allow unguided dumb bombs to hit their targets with a much higher degree of accuracy, are being sent to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Although the IDF insists it avoids collateral damage where possible, Israel has been heavily criticised for the high civilian death toll in Gaza.

Bombs equipped with the guidance kits use a scene-matching algorithm to strike targets matching a pre-loaded image.

It can correct its trajectory if it is drifting off course and can operate in fog or darkness. It is not affected by GPS jamming equipment which can neutralise other guided weapons.

Analysis by CNN in December found that almost half of the air-to-ground munitions Israel has dropped in Gaza have been dumb bombs, which pose a greater risk to civilians.

Danger to Israeli pilots

The US believes the kits will also limit the danger to Israeli pilots, who have been forced to swoop low over their targets to aim more accurately.

The kit, which comprises a new nose cone and wing-like fins, fires a 1,000lb bomb at a range of up to 75 miles, or a 2,000lb bomb from 37 miles. They can also be used to hit slow-moving vehicles.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Rafael, an Israeli company with a branch in the US, that manufactures the kits, is transferring the equipment to its Israeli parent company for use by the IDF.

Israel’s conflict in Gaza, a densely populated area of roughly two million Palestinians, has exacted a heavy price on the civilian population over months of fighting.

Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, said that more than 25,000 civilians have been killed in Gaza since October, and called on Israel to do more to protect innocent lives.

Fireball erupts from Hamas-occupied Jala Tower in Gaza City
Fireball erupts from Hamas-occupied Jala Tower in Gaza City - MAHMUD HAMS/AFP

There are fears of a humanitarian crisis if the IDF launches an offensive on Rafah, a city in southern Gaza. Its population has swollen to about one million people from Palestinians fleeing the conflict, but Israel believes it is the last stronghold of Hamas.

Rafael claims the weapons can hit targets with “minimum collateral damage”. However, experts believe the size of the bombs being dropped on Gaza means continued civilian casualties are inevitable.

Senior defence researcher J D Williams told the newspaper: “Any time you are doing military operations in a densely populated urban area, it’s very, very difficult to avoid not having collateral damage and not having great impacts on the civilian population.”

Shaan Shaikh, a defence analyst, said: “Regardless of guidance, if you drop a 2,000lb bomb on an area packed with civilians, on an area packed with critical infrastructure, you’re going to have a blast somewhere of 10 football fields.

“You’re going to have fragments and just pieces of debris going out hundreds, if not over a thousand feet.”