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Israel accused of using AI in Gaza: UN chief “disturbed”

Two Israeli media outlets accuse Israel of using artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and strike targets at home. Gaza, causing a very large number of civilian casualties, accusations which provoked a strong reaction Friday from the UN Secretary General.

“I am deeply disturbed by reports that the Israeli military's bombing campaign includes artificial intelligence as a tool to identify targets, particularly in densely populated residential areas, leading to a high number of civilian casualties,” he said. declared Antonio Guterres to the press.

“No portion of life or death decisions that impact entire families should be delegated to the cold calculation of algorithms .”

The investigation published by the media +972 Magazine and Local Call describes an Israeli army program called “Lavender”, which uses AI to identify targets in Gaza, with a certain margin of error.

According to these independent media, which rely on six “Israeli intelligence officers”, the program “played a central role” during the first weeks of Israeli bombings on the Gaza Strip. The military, according to them, “treated the productions of the artificial intelligence machine +as if it were a human decision+”.

According to two of the sources cited, the The army also decided that for each “junior” member of Hamas detected by “Lavender”, it was “allowed” to kill, as collateral victims, 15 to 20 civilians. The ratio rose to 100 civilians for one commander of the Palestinian Islamist movement.

Israel accused of using AI in Gaza: UN chief “disturbed”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during a press conference on April 5, 2024 in New York © AFP – Charly TRIBALLEAU

“Contrary to accusations, the Israeli army does not use artificial intelligence systems to identify terrorist operators or try to predict which person is a terrorist,” the Israeli army responded on Friday to questions from AFP, simply admitting the existence of a “database”.

Israel has been carrying out a vast military operation in the Gaza Strip since the unprecedented attack on October 7, carried out by Hamas commandos, which led to the death of 1,170 people on the Israeli side, the majority civilians, according to a count by the AFP based on official Israeli figures.

According to a latest report on Friday from the Hamas Ministry of Health, the intense bombing campaign on Gaza, followed by an offensive ground of the Israeli army, left 33,091 dead, mostly civilians.

– “Apocalyptic” –

“AI should be used as a force for good, for the benefit of the world, and not contribute to war at an industrial level, blurring accountability,” insisted Antonio Guterres.

Israel accused of using AI in Gaza: UN chief “disturbed”

6 months of violence in the Gaza Strip © AFP – Valentin RAKOVSKY, Sabrina BLANCHARD

Israel does not hide the fact that it is working on AI tools in its army. The army claims to have waged the “first AI war” for eleven days in May 2021 in Gaza. The chief of staff at the time, Aviv Kochavi, told the Israeli news site Ynet last year that AI had made it possible to generate “100 new targets every day”, compared to “50” per year in the Gaza Strip “in the past”.

According to a blog on the Israeli army website, more than 12,000 targets were then identified in 27 days, using a technology called Gospel. According to an official quoted anonymously, this tool selected targets “for precise attacks on infrastructure associated with Hamas, inflicting significant damage on the enemy, while causing as little harm as possible to those not involved.”

But a former Israeli intelligence officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told +972 Magazine in November that this technology was transforming into “an assassination factory.” mass”.

Questioned by AFP, Alessandro Accorsi, expert for the conflict resolution organization Crisis Group, considered the information “very worrying”.

Israel accused of using AI in Gaza: UN chief “disturbed”

A young Palestinian removes rubble from a damaged vehicle that fell from a building destroyed by an Israeli strike in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, on April 5, 2024 © AFP – MOHAMMED ABED

“It's apocalyptic. It's clear that the system can hallucinate, that the degree of human control is low,” he noted. “There are thousands of questions around this obviously, how moral it is to use it, but it's not surprising.”

For Johann Soufi, international lawyer and former director of the legal office of UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestinian refugees) in Gaza, these methods “violate all the cardinal principles of international humanitarian law”, including the distinction between combatants and civilians, precaution and proportionality.

They “indisputably constitute war crimes”, he denounced on X, even asking the question of ” crimes against humanity, as the ratio (20 civilians killed/1 junior combatant, and 100/1 commander) suggests a desire to attack the Gazan civilian population in a systematic and widespread manner.”

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116