Amid rising tensions between Israel and Palestine in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli army recently introduced robotic weapons powered by artificial intelligence.
The twin turrets are installed on a watchtower overlooking the overcrowded al-Aroub refugee camp in the West Bank.
19-year-old Kamal Abu Hishesh lives under the tracking turret.
“It fires by itself without any difficulty from the soldier. If he [an Israeli soldier] sees a little boy, he pushes a button or something and it fires by itself,” said the resident of al-Aroub camp.
“Also, it’s very fast, even faster than the soldiers… The tear gas bombs it fires can reach the end of the camp and all the way there. I’ve seen it several times and I have videos,” he added.
The company behind the Smart Shooter remote-controlled weapon says the purpose of the autonomous weapons is to better protect soldiers and civilians by improving accuracy when hitting the right target.
“Usually the terrorist is in a civilian environment with a lot of people that we don’t want to hurt. We allow the soldier to look through their fire control system to make sure the target they’re trying to hit is the legitimate target,” said Michal Mor, the CEO of Smart Shooter.
“Once he has locked on to the target, the system ensures that when he pulls the trigger, the bullet is released only at the legitimate target and no bystanders can be hit by the gun.”
The Israeli army said in a statement that the autonomous weapons will be regulated like any other weapon in its arsenal and will not use live rounds; They can only fire tear gas, stun grenades, and sponge-tipped bullets.
Human rights activists raise worrying voices about the “digital dehumanization of weapon systems” and accuse Israel of creating “a powder keg for human rights”.
“At the end of the day, when you combine technology that invariably eliminates, to some degree, the human judgment required to monitor a complex situation under international law,” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch said.
Robotic weapons are increasingly deployed around the world, with drones being widespread from Ukraine to Ethiopia, and remote-controlled weapons used by the US in Iraq, South Korea along the border with North Korea, and by Syrian rebels.
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