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U.N. Chief Alarmed by AI Use in Gaza Conflict, Says Israel Uses AI to Select Target in Gaza

U.N. Chief Alarmed by AI Use in Gaza Conflict, Says Israel Uses AI to Select Target in Gaza
Source: Getty Images, U.N. Chief Alarmed by AI Use in Gaza Conflict, Says Israel Uses AI to Select Target in Gaza

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has voiced serious concerns over reports that Israel is utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to select targets in the Gaza Strip. The U.N. chief's apprehensions arise from allegations that the Israeli military's use of AI has led to a high number of civilian casualties, particularly in densely populated areas.

According to an article in the independent Israeli-Palestinian magazine, the Israeli army has employed an AI system named Lavender to mark tens of thousands of Gazans as potential targets for assassination, with minimal human oversight. The report suggests that for lower-ranking Hamas operatives identified by Lavender, the Israeli military has allowed for the potential loss of up to 15 or 20 civilians. In cases involving senior Hamas officials, this number reportedly rose to more than 100 civilians.

Guterres emphasized that life and death decisions impacting families should not be left to the "cold calculation of algorithms." He stated, "No part of life and death decisions which impact entire families should be delegated to the cold calculation of algorithms."

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have refuted these claims, stating that they do not use an AI system to identify terrorist operatives or predict whether a person is a terrorist. Instead, they maintain a database to cross-reference intelligence sources on the military operatives of terrorist organizations, which serves as a tool for analysts. The IDF asserts that they do not conduct strikes when the expected collateral damage, a term that includes civilian casualties, is excessive¹.

This controversy comes in the wake of the deadliest ever Gaza war, which began with a Palestinian militant group Hamas carrying out an attack against Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of 1,170 Israelis and foreigners, mostly civilians. The subsequent Israeli campaign in Gaza has led to at least 33,091 deaths, predominantly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

The U.N. Secretary-General's statement reflects a growing concern over the ethical implications of AI in warfare and the need for stringent oversight to prevent civilian harm.