B'Tselem: 773 of Palestinians killed in Cast Lead were civilians
Israeli human rights' group collects names of Palestinians killed in IDF operation, finds that only 330 of them were combatants. On the other hand, Institute for Counter-Terrorism issues report that casts doubt on Palestinian casualty figures by examining demographic distribution of those killed
A new report published Wednesday by rights group B'Tselem reveals that the IDF killed 1,387 Palestinians, 773 of whom were non-combatants. On the other hand, a report published by the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center shows that at least 1,000 of the Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip were Hamas combatants or were suspected of being combatants, and were therefore marked as targets by the IDF.
According to the B'Tselem data, 773 of those killed did not take part in the hostilities, 320 of whom were minors under the age of 18 and 109 were women (above the age of 18). The rest of those killed were 330 armed combatants, 245 Palestinian policemen – most of whom were killed in aerial bombings of the police station – and 38 others whose participation in the hostilities could not be determined.
These figures stray from the official figures published by the IDF in March that rely on data collected by the Military Intelligence Directorate. According to the IDF's numbers, 1,166 Palestinians were killed during fighting, only 295 – about a quarter – of whom were unarmed civilians. The IDF report showed that 709 of those killed were involved in hostilities, more than double the figure provided by B'Tselem. The IDF reported that the participation in the hostilities of another 162 men and young boys could not be determined.
According to B'Tselem, 60 of those killed were infants and children under the age of five. Among the 320 casualties who had yet to reach the age of 18, 224 were boys and 96 were girls. The names of all those killed are listed in B'Tselem's detailed report. The oldest fatality listed is Nimer Amum, 101, from al-Bureij refugee camp. He was killed along with two others while sitting on a plot of land next to a police station that was bombed. Some 11 more elderly people above the age of 80 were killed.
The B'Tselem report sought to emphasize that "behind the dry statistics lie shocking individual stories. Whole families were killed; parents saw their children shot before their very eyes; relatives watched their loved ones bleed to death; and entire neighborhoods were obliterated."
Destroyed houses in Gaza after the operation (Photo: Reuters)
According to the authors of the B'Tselem report, "The extremely heavy civilian casualties and the massive damage to civilian property require serious introspection on the part of Israeli society.
"B'Tselem recognizes the complexity of combat in a densely populated area against armed groups that do not hesitate to use illegal means and find refuge within the civilian population. However, illegal and immoral actions by these organizations cannot legitimize such extensive harm to civilians by a state committed to the rule of law."
The report's authors asserted "The extent of civilian fatalities does not, in itself, prove that Israeli violated the laws of war.
"However, the figures must be considered within the context of the numerous testimonies given by soldiers and Palestinians during and after the operation, which raise grave concerns that Israel breached fundamental principles of international humanitarian law and caused excessive harm to civilians."
B'Tselem also noted the Israeli casualties in their report. Nine were killed by Palestinian fire, including three civilians and a security officer during rocket barrages on the south of the country. In addition, five soldiers were killed in the fighting in Gaza. Another four soldiers were killed by friendly fire.
Opposing report: No indiscriminate fire
The Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center published a variant statistics that reinforce the figures issued by the IDF. The ICT study claims that the demographic distribution of the Palestinian casualties nullifies any claims that the IDF indiscriminately attacked targets during the operation.
The study relies on the report published in March by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza that claims that 1,434 Palestinians were killed during Operation Cast Lead. According to this data set, 235 of those killed were combatants, 239 were policemen, and 960 were civilians. Of the 960 civilians, 121 were women, 288 were minors under the age of 18, and 551 were men.
The Palestinians organization claimed that all 239 policemen were non-combatants. However, the ICT study found that many of them were indeed members of Hamas' military arm and were involved directly or indirectly in the fighting.
The study found that of the 960 civilian casualties, 518 of them could not be positively identified as being non-affiliated with a militant group. The ICT researchers claimed that analysis of the demographic distribution of the Palestinian casualties shows that the demographic profile of the 518 unaffiliated casualties is identical to the demographic profile of the combatants. In other words, most were men of fighting age.
The study asserts that if there had been random, indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations and the distribution of the casualties' demographics was likewise as random, then there would be an even demographic split, with 50% of the casualties being men and 50% of the casualties being women. However, in actuality, 78% of those killed were men and only 22% were women.
"In regards to children, the median age in Gaza is 17. Therefore, we could expect that among all the casualties, 50% of casualties would be below this age and 50% would be above this age. However, what we see in actuality is that 70% of those killed were adults," claimed the study researchers.
B'Tselem responded to the ICT report: "The gaps stem from their perception that every casualty that fits the profile of a Hamas combatant is indeed a Hamas combatant. The average age of a Hamas combatant who was killed is in fact 24, however, this does not mean that every 24-year-old man walking around Gaza is a legitimate target with blood on his hands. Many of them did not participate in the fighting. Even the IDF doesn't claim that it is permissible to target an unarmed person only because he fits a certain gender and age category and is doing something harmless like climbing on top of a roof to fix a water boiler or going out on the street to drink coffee."
Daniel Edelson contributed to this report