World, Middle East

Israel using AI to identify potential civilian targets to maximize Palestinian casualties: Report

Israeli army using intelligence application 'Habsora' to select targets in Gaza in one of deadliest military attacks on Palestinians since 1948 Nakba, says Israeli media investigative report

Alperen Aktaş  | 03.12.2023 - Update : 05.12.2023
Israel using AI to identify potential civilian targets to maximize Palestinian casualties: Report


Israel is deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure by using artificial intelligence (AI) to identify potential civilian targets and maximize Palestinian casualties in the ongoing attacks on the Gaza Strip, said two independent media organizations in their joint report published recently.

The report also highlighted the role of former and current intelligence sleuths in Tel Aviv in producing what has been described as one of the deadliest Israeli army attacks against Palestinians since the 1948 Nakba.

According to an investigation report by +972 Magazine and the Hebrew-language outlet Local Call, which interviewed several current and former sources in Israel's intelligence community who know the intelligence application "Habsora" or the Gospel in English, the Israeli army uses it to deliberately target civilian infrastructure, which provides beforehand information on how many civilians will lose their lives in attacks on automatically generated targets.

The Israeli military employs Habsora to select targets in Gaza, which speeds up the process of finding possible targets and contributes significantly to Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure.

As of Nov.10, the Israeli military attacked 15,000 targets in Gaza during the first 35 days of the intensified onslaught, according to a military spokesperson.

According to the research, when compared to previous attacks on Gaza, the current assault significantly increased the targeting of civilian infrastructure classified as "power targets" by the military. Private residences, public buildings, civilian infrastructure, and multi-story buildings were among the targets.

With a history of involvement in Gaza attacks, deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure aims to put "civilian pressure" on Hamas, the research said, citing intelligence sources.

The report said intelligence units pre-examine and calculate the estimated number of potential targets, including homes, as well as the anticipated number of civilians living in those areas in Gaza, and as a result, the military is aware of the approximate number of civilians to be killed before launching an attack.

In one of the attacks, the Israeli military knowingly approved the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians to assassinate a high-ranking military commander of Hamas, the report said, citing intelligence agency sources.

Habsora a ‘mass assassination factory’

Another reason for a higher civilian casualty rate in recent Tel Aviv attacks compared to previous similar ones is the widespread use of the Habsora system, AI technology developed by the Israeli military that can automatically generate targets at a rate "beyond what was previously possible."

In 2019, the Israeli military established a new unit to accelerate target generation through the use of AI in its operations.

The +972 and Local Call research also referred to former Israeli army chief Aviv Kochavi's in-depth interview with Ynet newspaper earlier this year, in which he mentioned that this unit is made up of "hundreds of officers and soldiers" and relies on AI capabilities.

Kochavi described the Habsora technology developed in this unit as a machine that, with the help of AI, processes large amounts of data better and faster than any human, transforming them into attack targets.

He said since its deployment in the 2021 Guardians of the Walls Operation, this machine has generated 100 new targets every day, surpassing the previous record of 50 targets generated annually in Gaza.

According to the +972 and Local Call research report, targets are automatically prepared and worked on according to a checklist.

They emphasized the fast-paced nature of the operation, comparing it to a factory where the evaluation is based on how many targets can be produced.

According to intelligence sources, Habsora generates automatic suggestions to attack private residences where individuals suspected of belonging to Hamas or Islamic Jihad reside. Israel then conducts extensive assassination operations by heavily bombing these homes, said the report.

Habsora can process "vast amounts of data that tens of thousands of intelligence officers couldn't handle" and suggests attack targets in real time, it added.

When Israel launched massive attacks, many top-level Hamas officials turned to underground tunnels, allowing the use of this system to locate and target other Hamas members' homes, the report said.

*Writing by Alperen Aktas from Istanbul

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