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Israeli Military: How Israel is using ‘Lavender’ and ‘Daddy’ to identify 37,000 Hamas operatives

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The Israeli military’s operations in Gaza, employing artificial intelligence (AI) systems to target Hamas militants, have come under increasing scrutiny as civilian casualties continue to rise. Reports by Israeli outlets +972 Magazine and Local Call have shed light on the use of two AI systems, “Lavender” and “Where’s Daddy?”, in the conflict, raising questions about the accuracy of target identification and the ethical implications of AI use in warfare.

This AI powered database, previously undisclosed, is said to have identified as many as 37,000 potential targets at one stage, at the heights of the conflict.

AI Systems’ Role in Targeting Hamas Militants

The “Lavender” system is designed to identify individuals suspected of being part of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), even targeting those with lower ranks for potential aerial bombardments. In the initial stages of the conflict, the military heavily relied on Lavender, leading to the system labeling up to 37,000 Palestinians as militants, along with their residences, for potential airstrikes. However, the system’s 10% error rate has resulted in the misidentification of individuals with no links to militant groups.According to one intelligence officer, “The IDF bombed [Hamas operatives] in homes without hesitation, as a first option. It’s much easier to bomb a family’s home. The system is built to look for them in these situations.” This approach has often resulted in civilian casualties, acknowledged as “collateral damage”, said a TOI report.

How Do These AI Systems Work?

The Israeli military’s AI systems, including “Lavender” and “The Gospel”, function by identifying suspected militants and their residences in Gaza. “Lavender” focuses on individuals, designating them for potential elimination, while “The Gospel” identifies buildings and facilities purportedly used by militants. “Where’s Daddy?” then monitors these targets and alerts the military upon their return to their family residences, facilitating strikes when they are present. This approach, however, has led to civilian casualties and raised concerns about the accuracy and ethical implications of AI use in warfare.Lavender was developed by the Israel Defense Forces’ elite intelligence division, Unit 8200, which is comparable to the US’s National Security Agency or GCHQ in the UK.

Impact on Civilian Casualties and Targeting Criteria

The use of AI systems like Lavender has raised concerns about civilian casualties, acknowledged as “collateral damage” by the military. Officers admitted to bombing Hamas operatives in homes without hesitation, as it was seen as an easier option. The minimal human oversight in the target identification process has reduced human involvement to a mere “rubber stamp” of the AI’s selections, leading to questions about the criteria used for targeting and the AI’s error rates.

International Reaction and Israeli Military’s Withdrawal

Despite international concerns, including from the United States, Israel has announced its withdrawal from Khan Younis, a city in southern Gaza, signaling the completion of a crucial stage in its ground operation against Hamas militants. However, defense officials have indicated that troops are regrouping in preparation for an advance into Rafah, Hamas’ final stronghold, raising further concerns about civilian safety.

Legal and Moral Questions Surrounding AI Use

Israel’s use of AI systems in its war on Hamas has raised legal and moral questions, particularly regarding the acceptance of collateral damage and the pre-authorization of civilian casualties. The IDF has defended its operations, stating that they are carried out in accordance with the rules of proportionality under international law. However, experts in international humanitarian law have expressed alarm at the high collateral damage ratios permitted for lower-ranking militants.

Israeli Military’s Ground Operations in Gaza

The Israeli military has announced its withdrawal from Khan Younis, a city in southern Gaza, signaling the completion of a crucial stage in its ground operation against Hamas militants. This move has reduced the Israeli troop presence in the area to one of the lowest levels since the six-month conflict began.

However, defense officials stated that the troops were regrouping in preparation for an advance into Rafah, Hamas’ final stronghold. Despite international concern, including from the United States, Israel’s closest ally, which has insisted on seeing a viable plan to ensure civilian safety, Israel has been threatening a ground offensive in Rafah for weeks. The city is home to approximately 1.4 million people, more than half of Gaza’s total population.

The withdrawal marks a significant point in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, which has now reached the six-month mark. Despite the withdrawal, Israeli military officials emphasized that a “significant force” remained in Gaza to continue targeted operations, including in Khan Younis, the hometown of Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar.

The Israeli military’s use of AI in targeting Hamas militants in Gaza has sparked debates about the ethics and legality of such operations, particularly in terms of civilian casualties. The reliance on AI systems like Lavender, with minimal human oversight, has raised concerns about the accuracy of target identification and the potential for increased civilian harm. As the conflict in Gaza continues, the role of AI in modern warfare and its impact on civilian populations remain subjects of intense scrutiny and debate.

(With inputs from TOI)



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