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More trouble for Hamas as Israel deploys new military AI in Gaza war

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Israel’s army has deployed some AI-enabled military technology in combat for the first time in Gaza, raising fears about the use of autonomous weapons in modern warfare.

A senior defence official told AFP the tech was destroying enemy drones and mapping Hamas’s vast tunnel network in Gaza.

New defence technologies including artificial intelligence-powered gunsights and robotic drones form a bright spot in an otherwise dire period for Israel’s tech industry.

The sector accounted for 18 percent of GDP in 2022, but the war in Gaza has wreaked havoc with an estimated eight percent of its workforce called up to fight.

“In general the war in Gaza presents threats, but also opportunities to test emerging technologies in the field,” said Avi Hasson, chief executive of Startup Nation Central, an Israeli tech incubator.

“Both on the battlefield and in the hospitals there are technologies that have been used in this war that have not been used in the past.”

But the rising civilian death toll shows that much greater oversight is needed over the use of new forms of defence tech, Mary Wareham, an arms expert at Human Rights Watch, told AFP.

“Now we’re facing the worst possible situation of death and suffering that we’re seeing today – some of that is being brought about by the new tech,” she said.

In a first, the Israeli army has used an AI-enabled optic sight, made by Israeli startup Smart Shooter, which is attached to weapons such as rifles and machine guns.

“It helps our soldiers to intercept drones because Hamas uses a lot of drones,” an unnamed defence official told AFP news agency. “It makes every regular soldier — even a blind soldier — a sniper.”

More than 150 countries in December backed a UN resolution identifying “serious challenges and concerns” in new military tech, including “artificial intelligence and autonomy in weapons systems”.

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