LA Times Corrects Inflated Figure for Gaza’s Civilian Casualties

CAMERA’s Israel office has prompted correction of a Los Angeles Times article which had provided a grossly inflated figure for the number of Palestinian civilian fatalities in this summer’s round of fighting between Israel and Hamas. The Aug. 21 article by Laura King had erred:
As our Snapshots blog noted yesterday, The Times’ claim that more than 2,000 Palestinian civilians were killed far exceeds the figures cited by Palestinian sources. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, 2,168 Gazans were killed in the conflict since July 8, of which, says the PCHR, 76.6 percent, or 1,662, were civilians. According to the Palestinian Al Mezan organization, 1,666 out of a total of 2,168 Gaza fatalities were civilian. The United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs claims that out of a total of 2104 casualties, 1,462 were civilians.
Thus, according the U.N., in addition to Palestinian sources, King’s figure is greatly exaggerated.

In a subsequent article, King did accurately report on the disputed casualty figures. She commendably wrote August 25:

About 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in this round of fighting, most of them civilians, according to the United Nations, but Israel says hundreds were fighters for Hamas or other militant groups.

Regarding the U.N.’s figures, it is important to keep in mind that, as documented by MEMRI, Hamas officials have encouraged Gazans to conceal the deaths of combatants. (Also, as indicated by The New York Times, human rights groups acknowledge that their figures, which form the basis of UN numbers, also likely include Gazans who were killed by Hamas as collaborators and those who died from natural causes, and other causes unrelated to Israeli strikes, such as domestic violence.)

Time published an online analysis by CAMERA’s Steven Stotsky, using figures from the Palestinian Committee for Human Rights, found very low percentages of adult female casualties and high numbers of fatalities among males of combat age, 17 – 39 (“How Hamas Wields Gaza’s Casualties as Propaganda, “July 29) after the first two weeks of fighting. Interestingly, there is a spike in casualties starting at the age of 17, peaking in the early to mid 20, and then rapidly diminishing.

It is also worth recalling that during the winter 2008-09 conflict between Israel and Gaza, many in the media repeated Hamas’ claims as fact that “most” of those killed were civilians. Months later, when the world stopped paying attention, Hamas acknowledged that, in fact, it had lost many hundreds of its fighters, confirming the figures Israel had been stating all along.

In response to communication from CAMERA staff, Times editors published the following correction on page 4 of today’s print edition:
Gaza Strip: An article in the Aug. 21 A section said that more than 2,000 Palestinian civilians had been killed in the conflict in the Gaza Strip. Figures from the United Nations indicate that more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed, but the number who were civilians was less than 2,000.
Though this correction contains the absolute minimum of information, and does not include any detail about the disputed figures as claimed by Israel, Palestinian and international sources, editors are nonetheless to be commended for promptly setting the record straight.
As of this writing, the error still appears online, and CAMERA continues to urge editors to correct there as well.
For additional Los Angeles Times corrections prompted by CAMERA, please see here.
Sept. 7 Update: LA Times Post Correction Online
The Times has prominently placed the following correction near the top of the erroneous online article:
Yet, bizarrely the original erroneous text still remains untouched as of this writing.

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