Hamad’s figures closely match the Israeli estimate of 709 combatant fatalities and indicate that combatants comprised around half of the Palestinian fatalities in the time period of Dec. 27, 2008 through Jan. 18, 2009, far more than the 17 percent claimed by Palestinian groups. The increased ratio of combatants to non-combatants is inconsistent with Goldstone’s most serious charge that Israeli forces systematically targeted civilians.
“They say the people suffered from this war, but is Hamas not part of the people? On the first day of the war Israel targeted police stations and 250 martyrs were killed, from Hamas and other factions,” he told the paper.(AFP, Nov. 1, 2010)
“In addition to them, between 200 and 300 fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas’s armed wing) and another 150 security forces were martyred.”
Statistics about Palestinians who lost their lives during the military operations vary. Based on extensive field research, non-governmental organizations place the overall number of persons killed between 1,387 and 1,417. The Gaza authorities report 1,444 fatalities. The Government of Israel provides a figure of 1,166. The data provided by non-governmental sources on the percentage of civilians among those killed are generally consistent and raise very serious concerns about the way Israel conducted the military operations in Gaza.
A section of the report is dedicated to a more expansive discussion of the casualty figures. Paragaphs 355 and 356 state:
PCHR divides the overall 1,417 victims into 926 civilians, 255 police and 236 combatants. It reports that 313 of the dead were children and 116 women.
Al Mezan reports that overall 1,409 persons were killed during the military operations, of whom 237 were combatants (including 13 under-age combatants) and 1,172 non-combatants, including 342 children, 111 women and 136 members of the police. Thus, according to PCHR and Al Mezan, fewer than 17 per cent of the Palestinians killed during the military operations were combatants.
Paragraph 359 then discusses Israeli claims,
The Israeli armed forces claim that 1,166 Palestinians were killed during the military operations “according to the data gathered by the Research Department of the Israel Defense Intelligence”. They allege that “709 of them are identified as Hamas terror operatives”, 295 are”uninvolved Palestinians”, while the remaining 162 are “men that have not yet been attributed to any organization”. Of the 295 “uninvolved Palestinians”, 89 were children under the age of 16 and 49 women. According to these figures, at least 60 per cent, and possibly as many as three out of four, of those killed were combatants. The Mission notes, however, that the Israeli Government has not published a list of victims or other data supporting its assertions, nor has it,to the Mission’s knowledge, explained the divergence between its statistics and those published by three Palestinian sources, except insofar as the classification of policemen as combatants is concerned.
However, after assessing the competing claims in paragraph 361, the report’s authors come down on the side of the Palestinian figures:
The Mission notes that the statistics from non-governmental sources are generally consistent. Statistics alleging that fewer than one out of five persons killed in an armed conflict was a combatant, such as those provided by PCHR and Al Mezan as a result of months of field research, raise very serious concerns about the way Israel conducted the military operations in Gaza. The counterclaims published by the Government of Israel fall far short of international law standards.
The importance of this judgement becomes clear later in the report when the indictment against Israel is summed up.
1885: The Mission recognizes that the principal focus in the aftermath of military
operations will often be on the people who have been killed more than 1,400 in just three
international humanitarian law. The principle of proportionality acknowledges that, under
certain strict conditions, actions resulting in the loss of civilian life may not be unlawful.
What makes the application and assessment of proportionality difficult in respect of many
of the events investigated by the Mission is that deeds by the Israeli armed forces and words of military and political leaders prior to and during the operations indicate that, as a whole, they were premised on a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed not at the enemy but at the “supporting infrastructure.” In practice, this appears to have meant the civilian population.
1890. The Mission recognizes that some of those killed were combatants directly engaged in hostilities against Israel, but many were not. The outcome and the modalities of the operations indicate, in the Mission’s view, that they were only partially aimed at killing leaders and members of Hamas, al-Qassam Brigades and other armed groups. They were also to a large degree aimed at destroying or incapacitating civilian property and the means of subsistence of the civilian population.
issued a statement that the village was a “legitimate military target” and that it had identified Serb forces dug into positions there. Nato said it deeply regretted any accidental civilian casualties that were caused by the attack.
The report called Israel’s military assault on Gaza ”a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population…”
But the report did not take a position on the number of Palestinian casualties, noting that they ranged from the Israeli government figure of 1,166 to the Hamas number of 1,444, without saying how many were civilians.
In Gaza, hundreds of civilians died. They died from disproportionate attacks on legitimate military targets and from attacks on hospitals and other civilian struc tures. They died from precision weapons like missiles from aerial drones as well as from heavy artillery. Repeatedly, the Israel Defense Forces failed to adequately distinguish between combatants and civilians, as the laws of war strictly require.Israel is correct that identifying combatants in a heavily populated area is difficult, and that Hamas fighters at times mixed and mingled with civilians. But that reality did not lift Israel’s obligation to take all feasible measures to minimize harm to civilians.
Hamas supporters claim that many more Israelis died in the three weeks of the war than Israel’s official count of only 13 dead.
Likewise they believe the official Hamas announcement that Israel killed only 48 fighters among over 1,300 dead in Gaza.
But that raises another question: if so few Hamas fighters died, were they really out there fighting?
The status of the 250 security personnel, most of whom were killed in the initial Israeli airstrikes on Dec. 27, 2008, has been a particular source of controversy. Israel and its supporters claim that the police personnel were part of the Hamas military structure and therefore legitimate targets. Non-governmental activist groups like Amnesty International, B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch contested this assertion. The Goldstone Report gives both sides of the argument, but comes down on the side that most of the policemen were not members of the Hamas militia and were therefore not a legitimate target.
In paragraph 1923 it states:
The Mission also concludes that Israel, by deliberately attacking police stations and
killing large numbers of policemen (99 in the incidents investigated by the Mission) during
the first minutes of the military operations, failed to respect the principle of proportionality
between the military advantage anticipated by killing some policemen who might have
been members of Palestinian armed groups and the loss of civilian life (the majority of
policemen and members of the public present in the police stations or nearby during the
attack). Therefore, these were disproportionate attacks in violation of customary
international law. The Mission finds a violation of the right to life (ICCPR, article 6) of the
policemen killed in these attacks who were not members of Palestinian armed groups
This judgement has been contradicted by another Hamas representative named Abu Khaled who, in an interview published by The Christian Science Monitor on Nov. 1, 2010, confirmed that “two thirds of Hamas policemen are police by day and Al Qassam [military wing of Hamas] by night”.
The Reasons Behind Hamad’s Admission
Hamas initially admitted to only 48 fatalities. This low figure was remniscent of a similar tactic used by Hezbollah in 2006, when it reported similarly low losses during its summer conflict with Israel. Only later, after the media din died down and the human rights groups had moved on, did Hezbollah officials admit, with little publicity, to larger losses. Why after intentionally downplaying its own losses for nearly two years, did Hamas decide to reveal a much larger casualty figure? Domestic political considerations in Gaza lie at the heart of this decision.
A report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center discusses the motivation behind Hamad’s admission. Initially, playing to the international audience, it was important for Hamas to reinforce the media image of Israel’s military action as indiscriminate and disproportionate by emphasizing the high number of civilians and low number of Hamas combatants among the casualties. This also has the benefit of enhancing the image of the group in the Arab world. Hezbollah was widely lauded for its purported success in fighting Israel in 2006.
Hamas finally admitted last week that over 700 of its fighters in Gaza were killed by the IDF during that war. This is precisely what the Israeli army said all along – that roughly 50% of the casualties in that war were Hamas terrorists…
The authors of the Goldstone Report owe the Israeli army an apology. And all those who supported and helped to spread this libel owe the State of Israel an apology.
Click on the link provided here to read the Goldstone Report.
Figures from Btselem – an Israeli human rights group critical of Israeli policy
773 did not take part in hostilities.330 took part in hostilities248 police officers killed at police stations36 unknown if took part in hostilities1387 total 24 percent classified as combatants
Human Rights Watch: Israel / Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)
“Civilians suffered tremendously during the conflict in Gaza. At least 773 Palestinian civilians were killed during Operation Cast Lead, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem; the group listed 330 combatants killed, and 248 policemen. (Human Rights Watch has not been able to assess whether and to what extent Gaza’s police were civilians immune from attack or were directly participating in the hostilities and thus lawful targets.)”
From HRW’s web site under the heading of February 2009
“The 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah resulted in 1,125 Lebanese deaths, nearly 4,400 wounded, and an estimated 1 million displaced, the vast majority civilians.
“The fighting in Gaza from December 27, when Israel began its military operation, until Israel and Hamas unilaterally declared ceasefires on January 18, left some 1,300 Palestinians dead and more than 5,000 wounded, 40 percent of them children and women. In addition, the casualties included an undetermined number of male civilians not taking part in hostilities. Over the same period, Palestinian rocket fire killed three Israeli civilians and wounded more than 80. Ten Israeli soldiers were killed.
“Civilians have far-and-away paid the greatest price in this conflict,” Stork said. “An independent investigation is a necessary step for ensuring the justice and accountability that they deserve.”
Amnesty International: “Israel/Gaza operation “Cast Lead”: 22 Days of Death and Destruction – July 2009
“At 11.30am on 27 December 2008, without warning, Israeli forces began a devastating bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip codenamed Operation “Cast Lead”. Its stated aim was to end rocket attacks into Israel by armed groups affiliated with Hamas and other Palestinian factions. By 18 January 2009, when unilateral ceasefires were announced by both Israel and Hamas, some 1,400 Palestinians had been killed, including some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians, and large areas of Gaza had been razed to the ground, leaving many thousands homeless and the already dire economy in ruins.
“Much of the destruction was wanton and resulted from direct attacks on civilian objects as well as indiscriminate attacks that failed to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilian objects. Such attacks violated fundamental provisions of international humanitarian law, notably the prohibition on direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects (the principle of distinction), the prohibition on indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks,and the prohibition on collective punishment.
“The pattern of attacks and the resulting high number of civilian fatalitiesand casualties showed elements of reckless conduct, disregard for civilian lives and property and a consistent failure to distinguish between military targets and civilians and civilian objects.
“Much of the destruction was wanton and deliberate, and was carried out in a manner and circumstances which indicated that it could not be justified on grounds of military necessity.Unlike in southern Israel, where the Israeli authorities have built bomb shelters to protect local residents from rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups, in Gaza there are no bomb shelters and none can be built because Israel has long forbidden the entry of construction material into Gaza.
“Some 1,400 Palestinians were killed in attacks by Israeli forces during Operation “Cast Lead” between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009. Some 5,000 were injured, many maimed for life. Hundreds of those killed were unarmed civilians, including some 300 children, more than 115 women and some 85 men over the age of 50. The figure is based on data collected by Amnesty International delegates in Gaza and on cases documented in detail by local NGOs and medical personnel in Gaza. According to Palestinian human rights NGOs two thirds of those killed were civilians. Amnesty International delegates who carried out research in Gaza in January-February 2009 did not have the time and resources to verify all the reported deaths, but investigated dozens of cases comprising more than 300 victims, more than half of them children and women, and gathered information from a wide range of sources. They concluded that an overall figure of some 1,400 fatalities is accurate and that, in addition to the children, women and men aged over 50, some 200 men aged less than 50 were unarmed civilians who took no part in the hostilities. In addition, some 240 police officers were killed in bombardment of police stations across the Gaza Strip in the first moments of Operation “Cast Lead” in the morning of 27 December 2008, including scores who were killed when the first Israeli air strikes targeted the police cadets’ graduation parade in the central police compound in Gaza City. Even though some of the policemen who were killed in these bombardments were also rank-and-file members of Hamas’ armed wing (in addition to being members of the police), many were not involved with armed groups and none were participating in hostilities when they were targeted and killed in the bombardments.” (Emphasis Added).