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Israel’s AI system for target selection has generated ‘mass assassination factory’ in Gaza

December 1, 2023 at 12:59 pm

An aerial view of the area as Palestinians live in Nuseirat refugee camp shopping at a local bazaar during the humanitarian pause in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on November 30, 2023. [Ashraf Amra – Anadolu Agency]

Israel has deployed an AI system to generate kill-targets which has turned Gaza into a “mass assassination factory,” according to a hard-hitting new investigative report published by Israeli media outlet +972 Magazine. The system differs significantly from previous military operations leading to indiscriminate killings and extremely high civilian fatalities during Israel’s current offensive in Gaza.

The Israeli army has files on the vast majority of potential targets in Gaza — including homes — which stipulate the number of civilians who are likely to be killed in an attack on a particular target, sources told +972. This number is calculated and known in advance, and thearmy’s intelligence units also know shortly before carrying out an attack roughly how many civilians are certain to be killed.

Highlighting the shocking disregard for civilian life, the report found that the Israeli military command knowingly approved the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in an attempt to assassinate a single top Hamas military commander. “The numbers increased from dozens of civilian deaths [permitted] as collateral damage as part of an attack on a senior official in previous operations, to hundreds of civilian deaths as collateral damage,” one source told +972.

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The expanded protocols for selecting targets employed by Israel has seen the army significantly increasing its bombing of infrastructure that are not distinctly military in nature. These include private residences as well as public buildings, infrastructure and high-rise blocks, which sources say the army defines as “power targets”.

“Nothing happens by accident,” said another source.

When a 3-year-old girl is killed in a home in Gaza, it’s because someone in the army decided it wasn’t a big deal for her to be killed — that it was a price worth paying in order to hit [another] target.

“We are not Hamas. These are not random rockets. Everything is intentional. We know exactly how much collateral damage there is in every home.”

The extensive harm to civilian life in Gaza is due to the widespread use of an AI system called “Habsora” (“The Gospel”). It purportedly recommends potential targets in Gaza at an unprecedented, automated pace. Citing former officers, the investigation alleges this technology facilitates a “mass assassination factory” prizing quantity over accuracy, allowing higher collateral damage. The objective was explicitly mentioned by Israeli army Spokesperson Daniel Hagari who, at the start of Israel’s military operation in October, said: “The emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy.”

Although it is unprecedented for the Israeli army to attack more than 1,000 power targets in five days, said the report, the idea of causing mass devastation to civilian areas for strategic purposes was formulated in previous military operations in Gaza, honed by the so-called “Dahiya Doctrine” from the Second Lebanon War of 2006.

According to the doctrine — developed by former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, who is now a Knesset member and part of the current war cabinet — in a war against guerrilla groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah, Israel must use disproportionate and overwhelming force while targeting civilian and government infrastructure in order to establish deterrence and force the civilian population to pressure the groups to end their attacks. It’s claimed that the concept of “power targets” emanated from this same logic.

Over 15,000 Palestinians have been killed so far, including a disproportionately high number of women, children and elderly who were not militants. Israel’s indiscriminate killing has been described as a “textbook case of genocide” by leading experts in the field of genocide studies.

The civilian death toll and destruction has prompted human rights groups and legal firms to demand independent investigations to bring about accountability for what many say is a genocide in Gaza.