Early on in the war, IDF gave clearance to allow 20 civilian deaths for every low-ranking Hamas suspect, intelligence sources said: report

Early on in the war, IDF gave clearance to allow 20 civilian deaths for every low-ranking Hamas suspect, intelligence sources...

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People surrounded a building destroyed in an Israeli airstrike.
Palestinians search for bodies and survivors in the rubble of a residential building destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on March 4, 2024.

  • More than 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, according to the city’s health ministry.
  • A new report reveals some of the IDF’s methodology for targeting militants — including an AI system.
  • The IDF set a ratio for how many civilians could be killed for every Hamas member, the report said.

During the early weeks of the Israel-Hamas war, the Israel Defense Forces established a ratio for the number of civilian deaths in Gaza that would be permissible for every Hamas militant killed, according to a new report.

A joint report from +972 Magazine, a Tel Aviv-based outlet, and Local Call unveiled some of the methodology behind the IDF’s targeting of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza based on interviews with six Israeli intelligence officers. The Guardian was also provided exclusive access to the testimonies from the six officers.

The sources, who remained unnamed, told the outlets that the IDF used artificial intelligence, a system internally known as “Lavender,” in order to create a database of potential targets who may be linked to Hamas and PIJ. At one point during the early weeks of the war, the system identified up to 37,000 Palestinians, according to four of the intelligence sources, The Guardian reported.

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Once the AI identified a potential target, a human would devote less than a minute to check the machine’s decision, a source told the outlets.

“I would invest 20 seconds for each target at this stage and do dozens of them every day,” an intelligence source said, according to The Guardian. “I had zero added value as a human, apart from being a stamp of approval. It saved a lot of time.”

Along with the AI-based targeting system, especially early in the war the IDF made it permissible to kill a certain number of civilians for every suspected Hamas militant assassinated, two of the sources told +972 and Local Call. In warfare, these civilian deaths are referred to as collateral damage.

Two of the sources told the outlets that in the first few weeks of the war, the IDF allowed up to 15 or 20 civilian deaths for every low-ranking Hamas militant assassinated.

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That number could increase to up to more than 100 civilians if the IDF were targeting a single senior Hamas official, the sources said.

“There was a completely permissive policy regarding the casualties of operations,” one source said, according to the report. “A policy so permissive that in my opinion it had an element of revenge.”

The number of allowed collateral damage has fluctuated since the beginning of the war, with one intelligence officer saying the rate was recently brought down again, according to The Guardian.

An IDF spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

In a statement to The Guardian as well as +972 and Local Call, an IDF spokesperson denied the existence of a kill list containing thousands of Palestinians.

An IDF spokesperson also told The Guardian that it “does not carry out strikes when the expected collateral damage from the strike is excessive in relation to the military advantage.”

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Since the beginning of the Hamas-Israeli war about six months ago, more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Foreign aid workers and journalists also have been killed by Israeli strikes. According to the UN, more than 180 humanitarian workers have been killed in the conflict.

Seven members of the World Central Kitchen, an international nonprofit, were killed on Monday after an Israeli strike hit their convoy. Before the strike, workers had just unloaded 100 tons of aid, The New York Times reported.

“Unfortunately, in the last day there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the strike, according to CBS News.

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