Israel denies claims that it used AI to select targets in Gaza. Wikimedia Commons

Israeli intelligence sources revealed the use of AI technology called the "Lavender" system in the Gaza conflict, claiming they have permission to target civilians in pursuit of low-ranking militants.

Lavender is the second AI system disclosed after Israel's "The Gospel" revelation last year. However, while The Gospel focuses on buildings, "Lavender" targets individuals, according to a report by +972 magazine.

The latest report cites six unnamed Israeli intelligence officers who spoke with +972, stating that the country's military "almost entirely depended" on Lavender during the early weeks of the conflict despite its documented tendency to misidentify potential targets as terrorists.

According to +972, human oversight in the targeting process, known as "the loop," was merely a formality. The report claims Israeli officers spent roughly 20 seconds on each decision.

The Lavender AI system reportedly functions by analyzing data collected from nearly all 2.3 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip through extensive surveillance methods. Using a complex ranking system, the AI tool assesses the probability of each individual's affiliation with Hamas.

Each Palestinian is assigned a ranking from 1 to 100, purportedly indicating their likelihood of being associated with the militant terrorist group.

Technological warfare: The role of AI in targeting

"Lavender learns to identify characteristics of known Hamas and [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] operatives, whose information was fed to the machine as training data, and then to locate these same characteristics — also called "features" — among the general population, the sources explained.

An individual found to have several different incriminating features will reach a high rating, and thus automatically becomes a potential target for assassination," +972 reported.

According to +972, the Israeli military granted "sweeping approval" for officers to utilize Lavender for targeting in Gaza. However, there was no obligation to review "why the machine made those choices comprehensively or to examine the raw intelligence data on which they were based."

The individuals checking Lavender's targeting decisions focused on ensuring the target was male. However, "internal checks" claim at least 10 percent of the targets had no apparent association with Hamas.

Details about how these internal checks were conducted are still scarce. It also needs to be determined whether the percentage was much higher. According to the report, the majority of the targets were targeted in their residences.

Another automated system, employed alongside Lavender and known as "Where's Daddy?" has also been utilized to strike targets within their family homes. "We were not interested in killing [Hamas] operatives only when they were in a military building or engaged in a military activity," an anonymous Israeli intelligence officer told +972.

"On the contrary, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) bombed them in their homes without hesitation, as a first option. It's much easier to bomb a family's home. The system was built to look for them in these situations," the officer added.

Responding to reports about the use of AI-powered databases in the bombardment of Gaza, the IDF has released a statement. "Some of the claims portrayed in your questions are baseless while others reflect a flawed understanding of IDF directives and international law," IDF said.

Targeting and impact on civilian populations

The IDF stated that military target identification involves various tools, including information management tools aiding intelligence analysts in gathering and analyzing intelligence from diverse sources.

"Contrary to claims, the IDF does not use an artificial intelligence system that identifies terrorist operatives or tries to predict whether a person is a terrorist," it stated. "Information systems are merely tools for analysts in the target identification process."

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, at a St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House on Sunday, said Palestinians require the bombings to cease urgently. Similarly, China denounced the Gaza conflict as a "disgrace to civilization" last month.