A continuing IDF investigation into the number of civilian Palestinian casualties during the Israeli offensive in Gaza indicated that only 250 of the fatalities were civilians.
The military estimates that between 1,100 and 1,200 people were killed during the offensive. Some 700 of are believed to be militants and most are believed to be Hamas operatives.
The IDF is still trying to ascertain the identity of the remaining fatalities, but security sources said many would probably turn out to be militants as well. "Hamas is familiar with the numbers and is doing everything it can to concealed them," said an IDF source.
The data presented by the Palestinian is vastly different: Palestinian Groups operating in the Strip have reported 92 of the fatalities as gunmen, 48 of whom were affiliated with Hamas, 32 with Islamic Jihad, 10 with the Popular Resistance Committees' Salah a-Din Brigades and two with the Mujahedeen Brigades.
According to a Palestinian source, the majority of the Palestinian fatalities were killed in air raids. The Palestinians reported 200 police officers were killed in the first day of the Gaza shelling, alone.
Hamas claimed that "the Israelis are concealing their losses and lying about the losses suffered by the Palestinians."
'Ratio of 1:3'
The military is doing everything it can to compile accurate data regarding the identity of those killed in Gaza, including debriefing soldiers and cross-referencing their information with intelligence.
Gaza Division Chief Brigadier-General Eyal Eisenberg alluded to the fact that the majority of the Palestinian fatalities were Hamas operatives, but refused to specify numbers.
The IDF has yet to verify the identity of some 200 fatalities, mostly men in their 20s, whose identification is delayed because they are still buried under the rubble. The defense establishment believed many of them would prove to be Hamas men.
Many of the fatalities were considered to be civilians at first, because there were no weapons found with them, said a military source, "But that method of operation is consistent with the way Hamas was hiding in the midst of civilians, moving between their strongholds with no weapons. In many cases someone thought to be a civilian casualty turned out to be a Hamas operative after we ran our checks."
Rubble in northern Gaza neighborhood of Jabaliya (Photo: AP)
The civilian-gunman casualty ratio, he added, was one to three, proving that the IDF was targeting Hamas and not civilians. The IDF stressed that the forces took significant precautions in order to avoid harming any civilians; but considering the way that Hamas chose to involve civilians in the fighting, mounting a surgical strike resulting in absolutely no civilian casualties was impossible.
Armistice likely to hold
As for the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the defense establishment believes it is likely to hold; especially given Hamas' failure to boast about any substantial achievements, like kidnapping a soldier.
"The devastation in Gaza, which is a direct result of the nature of a battlefield formed by Hamas, is enormous and it’s a deterrent factor for Hamas, which finally realizes the might if the IDF," said a defense establishment source.
The success of Operation Cast Lead, added the source, has led the military to begin implementing some of the operational patterns used in the offensive to other sectors.
Ali Waked contributed to this report