As Israel on Friday resumed bombarding Gaza following a weeklong pause, a joint investigation by a pair of progressive Israeli media outlets sheds new light on the Israel Defense Forces’ use of artificial intelligence to select targets, essentially creating what one former Israeli officer called a “mass assassination factory.”
The Israeli sites +972 Magazine and Local Call interviewed seven current and former Israeli intelligence officials including participants in the current war on Gaza, who spoke under condition of anonymity. Their testimonies—as well as official statements by Israeli officials, interviews with Palestinians, documentation from the besieged strip, and data—show how Israeli leaders know roughly how many Palestinian civilians are likely to be killed in each of its attacks, and how the use of AI-based systems is accelerating a noncombatant casualty rate that more resembles the indiscriminate bombing of World War II than the modern era of codified civilian protection under international humanitarian law.
“Nothing happens by accident,” another source stressed. “When a 3-year-old girl is killed in a home in Gaza, it’s because someone in the army decided it wasn’t a big deal for her to be killed—that it was a price worth paying in order to hit [another] target.”
“We are not Hamas. These are not random rockets,” the source added. “Everything is intentional. We know exactly how much collateral damage there is in every home.”
In one case, sources said Israeli officials approved an attack they knew would kill up to hundreds of civilians in a bid to assassinate a single Hamas military commander. More than 120 civilians were killed in the October 31 bombing of the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp with at least two 2,000-pound bombs.
“The numbers increased from dozens of civilian deaths [permitted] as collateral damage as part of an attack on a senior official in previous operations, to hundreds of civilian deaths as collateral damage,” one source said.
One reason for the staggering Palestinian civilian death toll—over 15,000 people as of December 1, most of them women and children—is Israel’s use of a platform called Habsora, or “Gospel,” which is largely built on AI and can generate targets at what the report states is “almost automatically at a rate that far exceeds what was previously possible.”
A source interviewed in the report said that “in the past there were times in Gaza when we would create 50 targets per year,” but with AI-driven systems, it is possible to produce 100 targets in a single day.
“It really is like a factory,” the source said. “We work quickly and there is no time to delve deep into the target. The view is that we are judged according to how many targets we manage to generate.”
According to the report :
The increasing use of AI-based systems like Habsora allows the army to carry out strikes on residential homes where a single Hamas member lives on a massive scale, even those who are junior Hamas operatives. Yet testimonies of Palestinians in Gaza suggest that since October 7, the army has also attacked many private residences where there was no known or apparent member of Hamas or any other militant group residing. Such strikes, sources confirmed to +972 and Local Call, can knowingly kill entire families in the process.
One source said that a senior intelligence officer told his subordinates after October 7 that the goal was to “kill as many Hamas operatives as possible,” leading to “cases in which we shell based on a wide cellular pinpointing of where the target is, killing civilians.”
“This is often done to save time, instead of doing a little more work to get a more accurate pinpointing,” the source added.
Another source said that the “emphasis is on quantity and not on quality.” A human “will go over the targets before each attack, but it need not spend a lot of time on them.”
The result of the new Israeli policy is the killing and maiming of civilians at a rate with few if any parallels in modern history. Since October 7, when Hamas-led attacks killed 1,200 Israelis and others in southern Israel, nearly 50,000 Palestinians have been killed, wounded, or left missing by IDF attacks. Over 300 families have lost at least 10 members, which the report notes is 15 times higher than during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, when the IDF killed more than 2,300 Palestinian civilians in what was at the time its deadliest attack on Gaza.
In the wake of the horrific October 7 attacks—plans for which were known to Israeli leaders but dismissed as too audacious, according to new reporting by The New York Times—Israeli officials publicly stated how they would retaliate, sometimes using language rife with genocidal intent.
“The emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy,” IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari explained on October 9.
Israeli forces answered the worst mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust with the worst mass murder of Palestinians since the 1947-48 Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when Jews—many of them Holocaust survivors—killed 15,000 Arabs and ethnically cleansed more than 750,000 others from Palestine while establishing the modern state of Israel.
IDF bombs and bullets have killed nearly as many civilians in 56 days as the U.S.-led coalition did in Afghanistan in 20 years. During the first two weeks of the Israeli onslaught, nearly all the bombs dropped by the IDF were either 1,000- or 2,000-pound bombs made by the United States—which, although it has killed more foreign civilians this century than any other armed force in the world, eschews using such massive ordnance in civilian areas.
Israeli military officials said the IDF dropped 6,000 bombs weighing a total of 4,000 tons on Gaza during the first five days of the war alone, destroying entire neighborhoods.
In addition to bombing tactical and undergound targets—which often lie beneath homes and other civilian structures—the IDF is destroying so-called “power targets,” which include high-rise and residential towers in the center of densely populated cities, and other civilian structures likes universities, banks, and government offices. The idea, intelligence sources said in the report, is to foment “civil pressure” against Hamas, whose political wing governs Gaza.
The IDF also targets the homes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad personnel, but Palestinians interviewed in the report said some of the families killed by Israeli bombing had no members who were in militant groups.
“We are asked to look for high-rise buildings with half a floor that can be attributed to Hamas,” said one source. “Sometimes it is a militant group’s spokesperson’s office, or a point where operatives meet. I understood that the floor is an excuse that allows the army to cause a lot of destruction in Gaza. That is what they told us.”
“If they would tell the whole world that the [Islamic Jihad] offices on the 10th floor are not important as a target, but that its existence is a justification to bring down the entire high-rise with the aim of pressuring civilian families who live in it in order to put pressure on terrorist organizations, this would itself be seen as terrorism. So they do not say it,” the source added.