Doubt­cas­tonHa­mas fa­tal­ity num­bers

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

TWO WEEKS af­ter the fight­ing in the Gaza Strip has ended, the bat­tle over the ex­act num­ber and iden­tity of the Pales­tini­ans killed dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Cast Lead is still rag­ing. Most of the in­ter­na­tional me­dia has un­ques­tion­ingly ac­cepted the Ha­mas fig­ures of 1,300 fatal­i­ties but there are other re­ports that put the num­bers sig­nif­i­cantly lower.

Through­out the fight­ing, most of the fig­ures com­ing out of Gaza were from ei­ther Pales­tinian sources or in­ter­na­tional agen­cies be­long­ing mainly to the United Na­tions and the Red Cross which, in Gaza, are heav­ily in­flu­enced by the Ha­mas au­thor­i­ties. Fol­low­ing the cease­fire, the Ha­m­as­con­trolled Pales­tinian Health Min­istry in Gaza put the num­ber of dead at 1,314 with about 5,300 wounded. The Pales­tinian Cen­tre for Hu­man Rights (PCHR) put the num­ber slightly lower at 1,285.

So far, there have been no of­fi­cial fig­ures from Is­rael and in­ter­na­tional agen­cies have mainly re­lied on the Pales­tinian fig­ures.

In off-the-record brief­ings, se­nior IDF of­fi­cers have put the num­ber of Pales­tini­ans killed in the op­er­a­tion at around 900.

One of the few in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ments to come out so far was the re­port by vet­eran Ital­ian war cor­re­spon­dent, Lorenzo Cre­monesi of the Ital­ian news­pa­per, Cor­riere Della Sera, who vis­ited a num­ber of Pales­tinian hos­pi­tals fol­low­ing the cease­fire and quoted an un­named Pales­tinian doc­tor as say­ing that there had been be­tween 500 and 600 killed, mainly young Ha­mas fight­ers.

He also found many of the Pales­tinian hos­pi­tals empty, lead­ing to the con­clu­sion that the num­ber of wounded had also been vastly in­flated, though this could have been due to many of the wounded be­ing evac­u­ated to Egyp­tian hos­pi­tals.

The Pales­tini­ans have in the past sought to in­flate the num­bers of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in or­der to gen­er­ate in­ter­na­tional out­rage at Is­rael, most notably dur­ing the IDF op­er­a­tion in Jenin in 2002, which was orig­i­nally termed a “mas­sacre” but in the end turned out to have caused 54 fatal­i­ties — the great ma­jor­ity of whom were fight­ers.

In this case, Ha­mas has an­other mo­tive: to hide the num­ber of its own fight­ers killed in the op­er­a­tion, al­low­ing it to claim victory de­spite Is­rael’s dev­as­tat­ing at­tack.

The Pales­tini­ans have in­sisted that over 80 per­cent of their fatal­i­ties were civil­ians. The IDF has unof­fi­cially said that over three-quar­ters of those killed were con­nected to Ha­mas and that the num­ber of “un­in­volved” Pales­tini­ans was much lower.

But de­spite hold­ing the names of most of those killed, the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment has not yet de­cided whether to make them pub­lic. “The Pales­tini­ans are push­ing up the num­bers,” said a se­nior Is­raeli of­fi­cial, “but it is still a large num­ber of fatal­i­ties and we are not sure yet how we want to deal with it.”

An­other con­sid­er­a­tion for the Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties is the threat of war-crimes pros­e­cu­tions against IDF of­fi­cers and for that rea­son all the avail­able ev­i­dence is, for now, be­ing kept un­der wraps.

PHOTO: AP

A poster show­ing Ha­mas mil­i­tants killed in Is­rael’s Gaza of­fen­sive

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