AI deployed on battlefield in Israel-Hamas war
FOX News’ Douglas Kennedy unpacks the debate around the use of artificial intelligence in warfare.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have used artificial intelligence (AI) to improve targeting of Hamas operators and facilities as its military faces criticism for what’s been deemed as collateral damage and civilian casualties.
“I can’t predict how long the Gaza operation will take, but the IDF’s use of AI and Machine Learning (ML) tools can certainly assist in the administratively burdensome targeting identification, evaluation and assessment process,” Mark Montgomery, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation, told Fox News Digital.
“Similar to U.S. forces, the IDF takes great effort to reduce collateral damage and civilian casualties, and tools like AI and ML can make the targeting process more agile and executable,” Montgomery added.
“AI tools should help in target identification efforts, expediting target review and approval,” he said. “There will inevitably still be humans in the targeting process but in a much accelerated timeline.”
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“This could reduce casualties and speed up campaign execution if executed properly,” Montgomery said.
The Israel Defense Forces seized control of a military compound in the northern Gaza Strip that was being used by the Hamas terrorist organization on Nov. 6, 2023. (IDF)
The IDF has remained on the cutting edge of military AI integration, with officers and former officers of the force discussing with Fox News Digital over the past year the various ways that the military has made use of the technology.
The forces primarily use AI for targeting, both for real-time visual targeting from vehicles, such as tanks and drones, and target selection sourced from environmental data. At every step of the way, the IDF has stressed the place of human beings in the process to review the final conclusions – nothing is automated.
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Montgomery, who served in the U.S. Navy for three decades and worked for the late Sen. John McCain on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the IDF mainly uses AI to improve targeting efficiency.
A weapons storage facility used by Hamas terrorists is struck by the IDF. (Israel Defense Forces)
He pushed back on criticism of the high level of collateral damage the IDF has caused. The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry has reported around 11,000 dead as a result of the IDF ground invasion, with the United Nations continuing to cite that figure from Nov. 10.
The ministry has not been able to issue new statistics because of a “breakdown in communication between hospitals and disruption to the internet,” the Associated Press reported.
This image shows the IDF’s new artificial intelligence-powered Barak tank. (Israeli Ministry of Defense)
“Higher as compared to what?” he said. “In other words, if this is an exceptionally dense urban environment, and they’ve made a decision, which I think most Americans support, they have to eliminate Hamas as a terrorist organization.”
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Montgomery said the IDF has reduced the fighting force of Hamas from 24 battalions to “more like 14 battalions.”
“Artificial intelligence isn’t what’s driving excessive collateral damage or civilian casualties. It’s an environment in which they’re fighting,” Montgomery said. “The tactics and techniques used by their adversary – the use of civilians as shields, the placement of tunnels and illegally placing war-fighting capabilities in the vicinity of these hospitals … that’s what drives civilian casualties.”
Smoke rises after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in Ashkelon, Israel, on Oct. 7, 2023. (AP)
Regarding concerns as to whether the use of AI may prove controversial for the IDF, Montgomery said the Israelis find themselves in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, especially with the various efforts to push out evidence of the various claims on which Israel has relied to justify its invasion, such as the tunnels under the Al-Shifa Hospital.
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“The proper way to show the tunnels is the way they’re doing it, which is to remove the concrete caps … and send cameras down there and show that there are, in fact, tunnels under the hospital,” he said. “Using AI to examine sonar imaging or something like that leads people to thinking it’s some kind of fake.”
“AI can give you better access, but there’s an immediate accusation that it’s being manipulated,” he added, noting that as far as he has seen and heard, the IDF is using AI specifically to improve its targeting and identification.
Peter Aitken is a Fox News Digital reporter with a focus on national and global news.