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Israeli AI ‘Assassination Factory’ Plays Central Role in the Gaza War

Published: December 6, 2023 | Print Friendly and PDF
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Source: antiwar

The Guardian spoke with experts who disputed Israel’s claim that the AI targeting program is minimizing civilian casualties.

Tel Aviv has been relying on an AI Program dubbed the Gospel to select targets in Gaza at a rapid pace. In past operations in Gaza, the IDF ran out of targets to strike in the besieged enclave.

A statement on the IDF website says the Israeli military is using the Gospel to “produce targets at a fast pace.” It continues, “Through the rapid and automatic extraction of intelligence,” the Gospel produced targeting recommendations for its researchers “with the goal of a complete match between the recommendation of the machine and the identification carried out by a person.”

Aviv Kochavi, former head of the IDF, said the system was first used in the May 2021 bombing campaign in Gaza.  “To put that into perspective, in the past we would produce 50 targets in Gaza per year,” he said. “Now, this machine produces 100 targets a single day, with 50% of them being attacked.”

The IDF does not disclose what it inputs into the Gospel for the program to produce a list of targets.

Thursday, the Israeli outlet +972 Magazine reported Tel Aviv was using AI to pick targets in Gaza. A former Israeli official told the +972 that the Gospel was being used as a “mass assassination factory.” The program is selecting the home of suspected low-level Hamas members for destruction. Sources told the outlet that strikes on homes can kill numerous civilians.

One source was critical of the Gospel. “I remember thinking that it was like if [Palestinian militants] would bomb all the private residences of our families when [Israeli soldiers] go back to sleep at home on the weekend,” they said.

On Friday, the Guardian expanded on the +972 article by reporting that the Gospel plays a central role in the Gaza military operations.

A former senior Israeli military source told the Guardian that operatives use a “very accurate” calculation of the number or rate of civilians fleeing a building before an impending strike. However, other experts disputed that assertion. A lawyer who advises governments on AI and compliance with humanitarian law told the outlet there was “little empirical evidence” to support the claim.

During the nearly two-month-long conflict, Israel has hit over 15,000 targets. According to the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, Israel has dropped more than 25,000 tonnes of explosives on the Gaza Strip. The IDF reports that it has only killed between 1,000 and 2,000 suspected Hamas members. At the same time, at least 15,000 civilians have been killed, including 6,000 children.

Richard Moyes, a researcher who heads Article 36, said the images of Gaza prove the Israeli bombing of Gaza has not focused on accuracy. “Look at the physical landscape of Gaza,” he explained. “We’re seeing the widespread flattening of an urban area with heavy explosive weapons, so to claim there’s precision and narrowness of force being exerted is not borne out by the facts.”

This week, the BBC reviewed drone and satellite images of Gaza and determined that over 100,000 buildings have sustained damage.

Israeli sources speaking with +972 also disputed the claim that the IDF has attempted to avoid civilian casualties. A senior intelligence officer told his officers after October 7 that the goal was to “kill as many Hamas operatives as possible,” for which the criteria around harming Palestinian civilians were significantly relaxed, the outlet reported.

A second source said that the massive bombing campaign was due to the embarrassment the Israeli government suffered on October 7. “All of this is happening contrary to the protocol used by the IDF in the past,” they stated. “There is a feeling that senior officials in the army are aware of their failure on October 7, and are busy with the question of how to provide the Israeli public with an image [of victory] that will salvage their reputation.”

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that the Israeli government had been aware of Hamas’s plans for October 7 for more than a year. The article explained that Israeli officials believe “Hamas lacked the capability to attack and would not dare to do so. That belief was so ingrained in the Israeli government, officials said, that they disregarded growing evidence to the contrary.”

Kyle Anzalone is the opinion editor of Antiwar.com, news editor of the Libertarian Institute, and co-host of Conflicts of Interest

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