Indian Colonel Killed: Israel Admits Using AI-Based Weapons For Gaza Ops; Can There Be A Possible Link?

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has brought to light the significant role of artificial intelligence (AI) in modern warfare.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have officially acknowledged the use of an AI-powered system called Habsora or ‘The Gospel System’ to quickly identify and select bombing targets in Gaza.

This marked the IDF’s first official acknowledgment of an AI-based target acquisition system. However, recent investigative reports suggest another AI system, known as ‘The Lavender,’ is also employed alongside The Gospel.

Despite many advantages, AI could be very dangerous in certain situations. There have been reports of massive civilian casualties in Rafah. An angry US even threatened to block military supplies to Israel if the trend continued.

Recently, an ex-Indian colonel working for the United Nations Department of Safety and Security was killed in Rafah. He was traveling to the European Hospital along with a colleague when his ‘clearly designated’ UN vehicle was hit.

Did artificial intelligence fail to recognize the UN vehicle?

Group Captain TP Srivastava, an ex-IAF pilot, says the rapid evolution of AI might pose an existential threat to humanity if it is allowed to grow unchecked. The threat has been perceived by the ‘very best’ in the field of AI development.

The stark reality is that AI systems if abused or misused, can rather result in disasters.’ Deepfake technology has altered the entire fabric of society by creating ‘Digital Puppets’ and posting false statements by world leaders.

An insane/unstable mind having access to deadly weapons and knowledge of AI can become the harbinger of unthinkable disaster. Control of deadly weapons by a rogue entity is no longer in the domain of fiction. It is a reality. For the sake of humanity, weapons, especially nukes, must be kept out of the ambit of AI systems.

The Lavender: AI Streamlining Target Selection

The Lavender system is designed to identify individuals suspected of affiliating with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), including those holding lower ranks, potentially subjecting them to aerial bombardments.

Lavender was created by Unit 8200, the elite intelligence division of the IDF, which is analogous to the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States or GCHQ in the United Kingdom.

It is a program employed by the IDF and supported by AI that streamlines the process of selecting bombing targets. Traditionally, target verification required manual confirmation, but Lavender identifies potential targets using AI, according to a report published by Israel’s +972 magazine.

However, it’s important to note that Lavender doesn’t autonomously decide to strike; human operators ultimately make the decision based on its recommendations. Lavender is a data processing system, not an autonomous weapon, and human operators are responsible for deciding whether or not to act on its recommendations.

According to reports, during the early weeks of the conflict, Lavender identified 37,000 Palestinians as potential targets, with at least 15,000 airstrikes conducted in Gaza between October 7 and November 24 using this system.

However, the system’s 10% error rate has led to the misidentification of individuals who have no connections to these militant groups.

The Gospel: First ‘Artificial Intelligence War’

The term gospel literally translates to ‘good news.’

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed they waged the world’s first ‘Artificial Intelligence War’ against Hamas, acknowledging the deployment of the Habsora system, also known as the Gospel system, against Hamas.

This marked the IDF’s first official acknowledgment of an AI-based target acquisition system.

IDF describes Habsora as a ‘defensive’ weapon system that aids in swiftly locating enemy combatants and equipment. It aims ‘to reduce civilian casualties’ by aggregating data from various sources and providing targeting recommendations to human operators.

Core Distinction Between ‘Gospel’ & ‘Lavender’

The fundamental difference between the Gospel and Lavender systems lies in the definition of the target. While The Gospel marks buildings and structures that the army claims militants operate from, Lavender marks individuals and puts them on a potential ‘Kill List,’ according to reports.

In addition to target identification, Israel is also leveraging AI to map and monitor the extensive network of tunnels built by Hamas. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with AI-powered sensors are being used to survey the underground infrastructure, providing critical intelligence to support the IDF’s military operations in Gaza.

The deployment of AI systems such as ‘Lavender’ and ‘Gospel’ has sparked concerns about civilian casualties, which the military acknowledges as ‘Collateral Damage.’

Additionally, the IDF has defended its actions, asserting that it adheres to the principles of proportionality outlined in international law. However, Israel’s deployment of AI systems against Hamas has prompted legal and ethical debates, particularly concerning the acceptance of collateral damage and the pre-authorization of civilian casualties.

File Image: Israeli Fighters

AI: The New Architect Of Warfare

“We are really convinced that ongoing and future conflicts may be won, lost, or heavily impacted by AI speed, AI efficacy, and who is actually using AI on the battlefield.” Speaking at the 8th annual AI Summit in London, Dr. Nikos Loutas – NATO’s head of data and artificial intelligence (AI) policy, emphasized the pivotal role of AI in contemporary conflicts.

The integration of AI systems such as Habsora and Lavender into Israel’s military strategy represents a significant advancement in modern warfare tactics. At the same time, the technology’s rapid target generation capability raises concerns regarding the accuracy of target identification and the potential for a rise in civilian casualties.

While these AI-driven systems aim to streamline target identification and reduce civilian casualties, their utilization raises ethical concerns and demands close scrutiny. Finding an equilibrium between technological advancement and ethical obligations presents an ongoing and significant challenge for armed forces worldwide.

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, the role of AI in military operations will undoubtedly shape the trajectory of future conflicts and international relations.

  • Opinion by: Shubhangi Palve
  • Contact the author at shubhapalve (at) gmail (dot) com.