The Israeli military has deployed AI-powered military technology for the first time in the Gaza Strip, raising concerns about the use of autonomous weapons in modern warfare.
The military has hinted at what it will use the new technology for, with spokesman Daniel Hagari saying last month that Israeli forces are operating “on the ground and underground simultaneously.”
A senior defense official told AFP that the technology is destroying enemy drones and mapping Hamas’ vast network of tunnels in Gaza.
New defense technologies such as artificial intelligence-powered sights and robotic drones are a silver lining in a bleak time for Israel’s technology industry.
The sector accounted for 18% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022, but the war in Gaza has caused turmoil, with an estimated 8% of the workforce drafted into combat.
“War in Gaza generally poses a threat, but it also presents an opportunity to test emerging technologies on the ground,” said Avi Hasson, chief executive officer of Israeli technology incubator Startup Nation Central.
“Both on the battlefield and in the hospital, we are using technology that has been used in this war but not in the past.”
But the rising number of civilian deaths shows the use of new forms of defense technology needs more oversight, said Mary Wareham, a weapons expert at Human Rights Watch. told AFP.
“We are now facing the worst possible situation of death and suffering that we are seeing today, some of which is being brought about by new technology,” she said.
In December, more than 150 countries supported a UN resolution identifying “serious challenges and concerns” in new military technologies, including “artificial intelligence and autonomy in weapons systems.”
On October 7, Hamas launched an unprecedented attack against Israel, resulting in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, inside Israel, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Hamas also held about 250 hostages, and Israel said about 132 people remained in Gaza, including at least 29 people believed to have been killed.
Israel’s military response has killed about 28,000 people in the Gaza Strip, the majority of them women and children, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry.
Like many other modern conflicts, this one was shaped by the proliferation of cheap unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, making aerial attacks easier and cheaper.
Hamas used them to drop explosives on October 7, but Israel turned to new techniques to shoot them down.
For the first time, the military is using AI-enabled sights made by Israeli startup Smart Shooter on weapons such as rifles and machine guns.
“Hamas uses a lot of drones, so this will help our soldiers intercept them,” a senior defense official said.
“This allows every regular soldier, even a blind soldier, to become a sniper.”
Another system to neutralize drones involves deploying friendly drones equipped with nets and throwing them around enemy aircraft to neutralize them.
“This is drone-on-drone. We call it Angry Birds,” the official said.
A pillar of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to “destroy” Hamas is his rush to map the network of underground tunnels where Israel claims Hamas fighters are hiding and holding hostages.
The network is so vast that the military calls it the “Gaza Metro,” and a recent study by the U.S. Military Academy West Point found it to have 1,300 tunnels stretching over 500 kilometers (310 miles). Stated.
To map tunnels, the military turned to drones that can operate underground, using AI to learn to detect humans. This includes a drone housed in a robotic case developed by Israeli startup Robotican.
A senior Israeli defense official said they are being used in Gaza “to go into tunnels and see as far as communication is possible.”
Before the war, this technology did not allow drones to operate underground because of problems transmitting images to the ground, the official added.
The conflict raised human rights concerns, but also cemented Israel’s position as the world’s leading manufacturer of cutting-edge defense systems.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the United States, Israel’s main international ally and provides billions of dollars in military aid each year, is using its soldiers to shoot down drones using smart shooter sights. It was reported that he was training.
In late January, three U.S. soldiers were killed in a drone attack on a base in Jordan.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)