Expert: Israeli AI Use in Gaza Likely Reduces Civilian Casualties

June 15, 2024 by No Comments

While the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been relatively quiet about their use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the recent conflict in Gaza, experts believe these technologies are playing a crucial role in minimizing civilian casualties.

Blaise Misztal, Vice President for Policy at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), suggests that Israel is employing AI-powered drone swarms, mapping drones, and targeting systems to identify and neutralize Hamas terrorists while minimizing collateral damage.

Misztal points to evidence indicating that drones are extensively used by ground troops, with the IDF reporting that each unit has its own dedicated aerial support. These drones are believed to be mapping underground tunnels and protecting troops operating within them.

Specific AI-powered systems mentioned include the Iris, a throwable device capable of exploring confined spaces and relaying real-time intelligence, and Ghost Robotics’ quadruped robots that can navigate challenging terrain.

Xtend UAV systems, initially designed to counter Hamas’s incendiary balloons, are also being deployed in Gaza. Their Griffon Counter UAV system is capable of targeting hostile drones, a critical function given the increasing threat from Iran and its proxies.

The IDF’s use of “parallel deployment” could indicate the utilization of drone swarms, groups of drones that communicate and coordinate autonomously using AI. These swarms were employed in 30 sorties during Israel’s 2021 war, effectively identifying Hamas rocket launch sites.

Two AI-powered targeting systems, known as “Gospel” and “Lavender,” are considered essential in preventing unnecessary civilian casualties. Misztal clarifies that these systems do not automatically engage targets but instead involve a “man-machine loop” where human analysts and IDF lawyers provide final approval.

Jonathan Conricus, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former IDF spokesman, confirms that human decision-making remains central to Israel’s military operations, despite the increasing reliance on AI and technology.

Misztal explains that “Gospel” identifies hard targets such as buildings, weapons storage facilities, and rocket launchers, while “Lavender” uses facial recognition to pinpoint Hamas leaders and fighters.

The key benefit of these targeting systems is their ability to process vast amounts of data from various sources, including aerial and ground sensors. This data analysis allows the systems to identify potential targets with greater accuracy, minimizing mistakes and reducing civilian casualties.

Misztal cites a 2021 incident where an Israeli airstrike on a poorly constructed tunnel resulted in the collapse of a residential building above it, causing civilian casualties. He argues that the use of AI-powered mapping drones and targeting systems has helped to avoid similar situations by enabling the IDF to identify strategic intersections within tunnel networks and block them without risking the collapse of overlying civilian structures.

Misztal highlights the use of “Lavender” as an example of Israel’s commitment to civilian protection. Facial recognition technology is employed to screen civilians moving between safe zones, ensuring that Hamas fighters do not exploit these measures to infiltrate safe areas.

Misztal emphasizes that the integration of AI-powered systems has become a standard operating procedure for the IDF since 2021. He states that the IDF initially faced uncertainties regarding the operational environment in Gaza but has improved its capabilities through the use of drones, surveillance systems, and other AI technologies, enabling more precise and targeted operations.

A report released by the Associated Press, which analyzed data from the Gaza Ministry of Health, supports Misztal’s assertion that the use of AI has contributed to a significant reduction in civilian casualties. The AP found a sharp decline in the proportion of Palestinian women and children killed during the conflict, a trend that went largely unnoticed by the UN and media outlets for months.

Beyond reducing casualties, AI has enabled the IDF to automate and streamline complex tasks, freeing up human resources. Conricus emphasizes that without the extensive use of technology and AI, Israel would require a significant expansion of its intelligence collection and control infrastructure, which is not feasible. AI allows Israel to manage multiple threats within its existing manpower and resource constraints.