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Israel challenges Palestinian claims on Gaza death toll
IDF says internal inquiry found Palestinian fatalities in recent Gaza offensive numbered at 1,166; 709 confirmed Hamas gunmen, 300 ID'd as civilians. 'Gunmen purposely positioned themselves in civilian areas,' claims army

The Israeli Military is disputing Palestinian claims that most of the people killed in the recent fighting in Gaza Strip were civilians.


The IDF said Thursday that an internal inquiry found that 1,166 people were killed in the three-week offensive that ended in January. It said 709 were Hamas militants, and just under 300 people, including 89 children aged 16 and 49 women, were civilians.


According to the military, it is unclear clear whether an additional 162 men who died were militants or civilians.


An IDF statement released Thursday did not provide a list of the fatalities but said its figures are based on information from intelligence sources, and that the names were thoroughly cross-referenced and examined.


The Palestinians said 1,417 people were killed, including more than 900 civilians. The heavy civilian toll sparked an international outcry.


"During the operation the army targeted Hamas, not the residents of Gaza, but the fighting took place on a complex battlefield; Hamas gunmen purposely positioned themselves in the heart of civilian areas," the IDF Spokesman's Unit said.


"The army made every effort to avoid civilian casualties, including the distribution of flyers and broadcasts that warned residents ahead of attacks on specific areas."


Earlier this week Southern Command chief Major-General Yoav Galant commented for the first time on Operation Cast Lead and the ethical dilemmas that accompanied it.


"I'm proud that we have such a moral army, which respects international law," Galant said during an event in honor of the Medical Corps.


Galant spoke of the extensive preparations carried out ahead of the operation, and of Hamas' attempts to involve civilians in the fighting. "The Palestinian gunman held his arms cache in his home, came out to fight and then went back to the house believing that we will not target him there," he claimed. 


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