Israel deploys AI-powered robot guns that can track targets in the West Bank

AI-powered guns being deployed by Israel in the West bank
AI-powered guns being deployed by Israel in the West bank   -   Copyright  AP Photo
By Roselyne Min  with AP

Amid increasing tension between Israel and Palestine in the occupied West Bank, Israel’s army has recently introduced artificial intelligence-powered robotic guns.

The twin gun turrets are installed on top of a guard tower overlooking the crowded al-Aroub refugee camp in the West Bank.

Living under the target-tracking weapon tower is 19-year-old Kamal Abu Hishesh.

"It fires by itself without any difficulty from the soldier. When he [an Israeli soldier] sees a little boy, he presses a button or something and it fires by itself," said the resident of the al-Aroub camp.

"Also, it is very fast, even faster than the soldiers... The tear gas bombs that it fires can reach the end of the camp and all the way up there. I have seen it several times and I have videos," he added.

The company behind the remote-controlled weapon Smart Shooter says the purpose of the autonomous guns is to protect soldiers and civilians better by enhancing the accuracy of hitting the right target.

"Usually, the terrorist will be inside a civilian environment with many people that we do not want to hurt. We're enabling the soldier to look through his fire control system, to make sure that the target that he wants to hit is the legitimate target," Michal Mor, the CEO of Smart shooter, said.

'Digital dehumanisation'

“Once he locks on the target, the system will make sure that the round will be released when he presses the trigger, only on the legitimate target and none of the bystanders can be hit by the weapon".

The Israeli army in a statement said the autonomous guns are regulated like any other weapon in their arsenal, and won't use live rounds; they can only fire tear gas, stun grenades, and sponge-tipped bullets.

Human rights activists are raising concerning voices about "the digital dehumanisation of weapons systems" and accusing Israel of creating "a powder keg for human rights".

"At the end of the day, when you combine a technology that invariably removes to some degree the kind of human judgment necessary to police, according to international law, a complex situation," Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, said.

Robotic weapons are increasingly in operation around the world, with drones being widely used from Ukraine to Ethiopia, and remote-controlled guns having been used by the USA in Iraq, South Korea along the border with North Korea, and by Syrian rebels.

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Video editor • Roselyne Min