The Jewish Chronicle - - World News -

THERE IS EV­ERY rea­son to doubt the fig­ures given by Ha­mas for the num­ber of dead and wounded in Gaza. In Jenin in 2002, Pales­tinian spokes­men gave stag­ger­ing fig­ures: first 3,000, then 500. A UN in­quiry down­sized this to 54 and con­firmed that most were com­bat­ants.

In this asym­met­ric war­fare the Pales­tini­ans sys­tem­at­i­cally ma­nip­u­late me­dia im­ages to score points. So why doubt a re­port by Lorenzo Cre­monesi in Cor­riere della Sera say­ing Ha­mas had wildly ex­ag­ger­ated the to­tal? Cre­monesi men­tions the sur­prise of NGOs at the cred­u­lous­ness of West­ern or­gan­i­sa­tions who ac­cepted Ha­mas fig­ures.

But then there is the Is­raeli army’s in­stant, un­am­bigu­ous re­sponse: Cre­monesi is wrong and we have a list of 900 dead Ha­mas fight­ers to prove it.

We don’t know who is right but the fol­low­ing is clear: Ha­mas did its best to use civil­ians as hu­man shields; its fight­ers dressed as civil­ians (in vi­o­la­tion of Geneva Con­ven­tions); it forced am­bu­lances to move its fight­ers; it didn’t re­port their deaths; and it dropped their bodies at morgues without uni­forms.

So why is the death toll so im­por­tant in the end? The ev­i­dence that Ha­mas broke all the rules of in­ter­na­tional law is over­whelm­ing; and so is its sub­se­quent re­spon­si­bil­ity for in­no­cent deaths on its side of the bor­der.

And even if the death toll of 1,300 is ul­ti­mately cor­rect, it means that 70 per­cent of all fatal­i­ties were com­bat­ants — not a mas­sacre, given that most died be­cause they were hu­man shields. Dr Emanuele Ot­tolenghi is the di­rec­tor of the Transat­lantic In­sti­tute and the au­thor of Un­der a Mush­room Cloud: Europe, Iran and the Bomb (Pro­file Books)

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