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Israelis rush to apps in Gaza conflict

Diplomatic pressure for a ceasefire in the Gaza strip has intensified over the past few days, in an attempt to stem bloodshed from the latest bout of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

More than 600 Palestinians and up to 31 Israelis had been killed in the past two weeks of fighting, officials say. Gaza's health ministry, which issued the Palestinian death toll, also said that 3,640 people had been injured, news agencies reported.


Menahem Kahana, AFP

Israeli-Palestinian violence flared up in late June after the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, and the subsequent kidnap and killing of a Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem in early July.

The current conflict has seen increasing bloodshed and fierce fighting. Amid all this, Israelis have used smartphones, mobile applications and telecoms technology in an attempt to minimize civilian casualties.

Here's a quick look at some of the civilian tech used in the current Gaza conflict.

'SOS' alert

Launched in response to the kidnapping of the Israeli teenagers, the "SOS" app allows Israelis to dispatch an immediate distress alert to emergency services and family members with just a swipe on their smartphone. This provides their exact location using GPS tracking, which can only be disabled by the phone user's personal code.

The app is free and was launched by United Hatzalah, the country's volunteer emergency medical service, on June 19.

"With the recent kidnappings, we feel obliged to share our knowledge and technology to provide that extra layer of protection for the people of Israel," said United Hatzalah in a news release last month.

The app, which was developed by Israeli company NowForce, has already been downloaded by more than 100,000 Israelis.

Eli Beer, the founder of United Hatzalah, said the number of "SOS" users was still increasing rapidly and that Israelis' tech-savviness helped them embrace apps for personal safety.

"Israel is a very developed country when it comes to technology—and many other things—and we always try solving things with technology," Beer told CNBC.

Eli Beer, founder of United Hatzalah, with "SOS" emergency response app
Moshe Assulin
Eli Beer, founder of United Hatzalah, with "SOS" emergency response app

Israeli warnings

The Israeli campaign to weaken Hamas and destroy its network of tunnels has seen a large number of civilian injuries and fatalities. When the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began its current round of hostilities, it used telecoms and messaging technology to warn the inhabitants of Gaza of incoming fire.

The IDF says on its blog that it attempts to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza by texting or phoning residents in buildings designated for attack. It claims Hamas encourages Palestinians to ignore these warnings.

The Israel Air Force uses "roof knocking", where it targets buildings with "loud but non-lethal" bombs to warn civilians to evacuate if they are close to a weapons cache or other bomb target. It has also dropped leaflets over Gaza that warn civilians to avoid being in the vicinity of Hamas operatives.

There have been little evidence of a similar use of mobile and app technology on the Palestinian side. However, media reports suggest Gaza residents are using Twitter and free international text messaging app WhatsApp to get information on attacks and casualties, as wireless Internet can be used even when phone networks in the area go down.

Rocket attack signals

As well as the traditional sirens and radio warnings, Israeli civilians have also been receiving their alerts of missile attacks, from an app. "Color Red", which is available on iPhones and Androids, notifies users every time there is a rocket attack from Gaza.

The app was developed by young Israeli developer Kobi Snir prior to the current crisis. It can be used by residents in troubled areas who are worried about missing an air raid warning, but is also popular with those in other parts of the country who want to keep tabs on relatives. In addition, Israelis abroad are now using novelty app Yo to receive "Color Red" notifications.

Read More$1 million 'Yo' app has serious security flaws, users say

Another app available is "Secure Spaces", which informs users of the location of their nearest public bomb shelter. The app is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod and can locate protected areas in the Israeli cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Be'er Sheva.

"The use of messaging apps for public alert systems is reflection of the wider change in the mobile industry and a sign of the scale and engagement that messaging apps now have," Jack Kent, principal analyst for mobile at HIS Technology, told CNBC via email.

"With an engaged user bases of hundreds of millions of global users, messaging apps can be a very efficient and immediate way to reach users."

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato

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