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9 Apr 2024

OPT/Israel: AI used to identify thousands of alleged Hamas targets & to expand facial recognition program in Gaza

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in war and conflict zones raises concerns about breaches of humanitarian law and human rights, as highlighted by two recent reports.

According to investigations by +972 Magazine journalists, the Israeli military's bombing campaign in Gaza reportedly used the AI system "Lavender", a previously undisclosed AI-powered database, that at one stage selected 37,000 potential targets based on their apparent links to Hamas, without the degree of human oversight needed to verify the information prior to launching military campaigns.

Testimonies of Israeli intelligence officers said that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have a permissive policy regarding the causalities of bombing operations, permitting a large number of Palestinian civilians to be killed. According to +972 Magazine, "automated software inaccurately calculated the amount of non-combatants in each household...on several occasions, when a home was struck, usually at night, the individual target was sometimes not inside at all, because military officers did not verify the information in real time."

Moreover, the New York Times reported an expansive facial recognition program in Gaza, which is run by Israel’s military intelligence unit. The system relies on technology fromCorsight, a private Israeli company, four intelligence officers said. It also uses Google Photos, they said. Combined, the AI technologies of both companies enable Israel to identify faces in large crowds and grainy drone footage.

Three of the people with knowledge of the facial recognition program said they were speaking out because of concerns that it was a misuse of time and resources by Israel.