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Even With AI 'Kill List', Israel 'No Closer to Achieving' Goals Six Months Into Gaza War

© AFP 2023A general view shows the damage in the area surrounding Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital after the Israeli military withdrew from the complex housing the hospital on April 1, 2024
A general view shows the damage in the area surrounding Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital after the Israeli military withdrew from the complex housing the hospital on April 1, 2024 - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.04.2024
Sunday marked the six-month anniversary of the Israel-Hamas war, with Tel Aviv finding itself increasingly isolated abroad, and the Israeli military humbled after getting bogged down in the ruins of Gaza's cities by militants armed mostly with automatic rifles and RPGs. What, if anything has 'Operation Swords of Iron' achieved in six months?
The Israel Defense Forces announced Sunday that the "active invasion stage" of its campaign in Gaza had reached its end, withdrawing elements of Division 98 from Khan Yunis, southern Gaza while marking the intention to continue the occupation the strip’s central and northern areas using forces from the 162nd Division’s Brigade 401 and the 933rd Nahal Brigade.

“The 98th Commando Division has concluded its mission in Khan Yunis,” the IDF said in a statement. “The division left the Gaza Strip in order to recuperate and prepare for future operations.”

“A significant force led by the 162nd Division and the Nahal Brigade continues to operate in the Gaza Strip and will preserve the IDF’s freedom of action and its ability to conduct precise intelligence based operations,” the military said.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stressed that an operation at the Rafah checkpoint separating Gaza from Egypt was still planned, but offered no further details.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a cabinet meeting Sunday that Israel was “one step away from victory” but that “the price we paid is painful and heartbreaking” (presumably referring to Israeli troop losses). Commenting on truce talks imminently expected to resume in Cairo, Netanyahu said “there will be no ceasefire without the return of hostages.”
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‘Unmistakable Timing’

While the IDF assures that the shift in its operations has nothing to do with mounting international pressure on Israel, Israeli media have said that the “timing was unmistakable,” and likely connected to backlash stemming from the IDF’s targeted killings of seven humanitarian aid workers in Gaza last week.
Sunday’s shift in approach comes days after Israel announced the opening of the Erez Crossing separating northern Gaza from southern Israel, and allowed the temporary use of Ashdod Port for aid deliveries amid reported threats by Washington – its main foreign sponsor, to cut off arms aid.
Israel first began scaling back the intensity of its Gaza ground offensive in January, shifting part of its forces, including Division 63, to the northern border with Lebanon amid escalating back-and-forth skirmishes with Hezbollah and fears of a second front opening up in the north.
Division 98 claimed partial victory in the Khan Yunis area in February, but left forces on the ground, supposedly for the purpose of getting concessions from Hamas in hostage negotiations.
A person is seen detained on the back of an Israeli army vehicle in Erez crossing at the Israeli-Gaza border, southern Israel, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa) - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.04.2024
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Has Israel Achieved Any of Its Goals?

“Six months after Israel launched its attack under the banner of self-defense and the stated objective of destroying Hamas, Israel is no closer to achieving its military goals,” Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh, a Middle Eastern politics expert at Deakin University in Australia, told Sputnik.

"Hamas continues to engage Israeli forces in skirmishes. Israeli hostages are still in Hamas captivity and the civilian toll is mounting by the minute. Israel refuses to accept a political solution to end the war because the right-wing government of Prime Minister Netanyahu has made a 'virtue' out of this conflict,” Dr. Akbarzadeh said.

In the past six months, Israel has seriously undermined its international standing, and the reputation of its military, with Arab countries who once considered inking formal relations with Tel Aviv shying away from the idea, and the bloody nose the Israeli military got fighting Hamas and its allies showing that the IDF of today has become a shadow of its former self.
As far as Sunday’s partial IDF withdrawal from southern Gaza is concerned, Akbarzadeh said that it’s “hard to read too much into the IDF relocation of troops in the absence of any signal from the Israeli government regarding a ceasefire or a break in fighting.”
The IDF says 604 Israeli troops have been killed through the course of fighting in the past six months (Hamas estimates Israeli losses at over 1,600 troops killed). The IDF says 32,000 “terrorist targets” were struck over the course of the campaign and that over 13,000 militants were killed in Gaza.
United Nations staff members inspect the carcass of a car used by US-based aid group World Central Kitchen, that was hit by an Israeli strike the previous day in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024. - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.04.2024
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Gaza authorities estimate that over 33,175 residents of the Strip have been killed since October 7, with close to 75,900 people wounded and 8,000+ going missing. These figures taken together represent well over 5 percent of Gaza’s prewar population, and have prompted allegations by some countries charging Israel with engaging in acts of genocide. Israel has denied the claims. Deaths in Gaza have surpassed all Arab losses in wars with Israel since at least the 1980s and Israel’s invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon, with more children killed in Gaza since October 2023 than the combined child casualties of conflicts worldwide between 2019 and 2022.
On the Israeli side, 822 civilians were killed, mostly in the early stages of the conflict following Hamas’s surprise October 7 incursion into southern Israel, with 62 police and 10 Shin Bet intelligence personnel also killed.

Gaza Conflict Exposes Terrifying New Face of Warfare

In additional to its scale and intensity, the current phase of the Palestinian-Israeli crisis has sparked widespread concerns over the changing nature of warfare and growing reliance on controversial technologies.
On Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply troubled” by evidence that Israel has been using artificial intelligence in its Gaza campaign, “particularly in densely populated residential areas, resulting in a high level of civilian casualties.”

“No part of life and death decisions which impact entire families should be delegated to the cold calculation of algorithms,” Guterres said, citing a report by +972 Magazine, which revealed on Wednesday that the Israeli military used a AI-generated “kill list” system known as Lavender to direct its mass bombardment of Gaza.

The program had little to no human oversight, with officers reportedly “rubber stamping” the machine’s decisions to authorize the bombings of the homes of suspected militants in the Strip.
“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 the magazine. “On the contrary, the IDF bombed them in homes without hesitation, as a first option. It’s much easier to bomb a family’s home. The system is built to look for them in these situations.”
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Other sources told the outlet that “for every junior Hamas operative that Lavender marked, it was" deemed "permissible to kill up to 15 or 20 civilians,” with that number growing to “more than 100 civilians” in some cases if the target was a senior Hamas official.
The IDF has denied using AI to identify “terrorist operatives,” saying it operates a “database whose purpose is to cross-reference intelligence sources.”
The Cradle editor Esteban Carillo told Sputnik that Lavender is just one of a multitude of computerized systems the IDF has at its disposal. “They’re also using facial recognition cameras in Gaza to pick out people who they consider to be Hamas. Because, if you go by the numbers provided by Tel Aviv, every man, adult male in Gaza who has been killed is a terrorist,” the journalist stressed.

“They use these facial recognition cameras, they use AI to arrest, to kidnap Palestinian men, Palestinian women, I’m sure as well, children, to torture them, to keep them in detention,” Carillo said, emphasizing “that a lot of Western tech companies are helping Israel do this. Google, Microsoft – they have contracts with the Israeli army, with the Israeli government to provide them with this technology.”

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