'Significant drop in civilian deaths'

IDF report: Targeted killings in 2007 reduced civilian-terrorist death ratio to 1:30, compared to 2002's 1:1.

EliezerShkediIAF (photo credit: Channel 10)
(photo credit: Channel 10)
A famous joke among ground troops labels the Israeli Air Force (IAF) a "foreign, but friendly military." Significant methodical differences between air and ground troops have taken their toll on operational results. For example, ground troops, whether infantry, tanks or artillery all use maps with similar markings, while the air force has its own set of maps, marked with different codes, which for years resulted in poor coordination between air and ground troops on the field, all for "speaking a different language." However, according to a recent IDF report, increased cooperation between the IAF and ground troops including non-military intelligence agencies has resulted in a sharp drop in deaths of civilians over the past year. Since the IDF reinitiated the targeted killing strategy as sanctioned by the Supreme Court in a ruling from December 2006, a significant decrease has been noted in civilian Palestinian deaths as compared to efforts in the war on rocket terror from the Gaza Strip in previous years. During 2007, the military reported, only between two and three percent of Palestinians killed were civilians, and the rest were gunmen, as compared with the operations of 2002-2003, when about half the casualties in IAF assaults were civilians. A senior IDF officer attributed the higher accuracy of air strikes to better integration between the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Mossad. According to data compiled recently by the IAF, in the past, one non-combatant on average died in every air strike where a gunman - the raids' intended targets - was killed. Now, defense officials say, one non-combatant is killed for every 30 gunmen killed. The current, tight cooperation between security agencies and the military leads to obtaining accurate intelligence in real time. For targeted killings to achieve quality results, an IDF officer said, three parameters are necessary: pin-point, on-time intelligence, control and planning ahead of the operation and accuracy of fire. IAF commander Gen. Eliezer Shkedi allowed intelligence and tactical units of OC Southern Command to work closely with IAF intelligence officers, and as a result the units of OC Southern Command learned to produce a growing "target bank" while constantly monitoring terror infrastructure and gunmen's routines. "The process of learning has matured," the officer said. "The results are that the target bank has widened and real time integrative intel has increased the operational effect," says the IAF commander. From 2003, a 1:1 ratio between killed terrorists and civilians has improved to a 1:28 ratio in late 2005. In 2006 several mistakes made by the air force lowered the ratio to 1:10, but 2007 had the lowest ratio ever -- about 1:30. New weapons also allow for more precise hits, but "it's mainly the people and not the technology" that brought about the decrease in civilian deaths, stated the senior IDF officer, cautiously adding that "this doesn't mean we will never have errors but last month alone we hit 40 terrorists and not a single civilian."