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NYT Gaza Death Figures Support Israeli Side Over UN & Hamas Claims

The Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times, Jodi Rudoren, reported on a recent analysis of the known Palestinian fatalities in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. According to their analasys based on Palestinian Health Ministry figures, only 34 percent of fatalities comprised women, underage children, and the elderly. Of the rest, 55 percent were fighting-age men, and another 11 percent were listed as “unknown.”

If confirmed, these figures would significantly undermine claims that Israeli military operations indiscriminately or wantonly targeted civilians–claims that have been based on very different numbers coming from the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry as well as UN bodies.

Rudoren reports:

The Times analysis, looking at 1,431 names, shows that the population most likely to be militants, men ages 20 to 29, is also the most overrepresented in the death toll: They are 9 percent of Gaza’s 1.7 million residents, but 34 percent of those killed whose ages were provided. At the same time, women and children under 15, the least likely to be legitimate targets, were the most underrepresented, making up 71 percent of the population and 33 percent of the known-age casualties.

While not all twenty to twenty nine year-olds are necessarily combatants this suggests that Israel has been careful in its targeting. (An expansion of the age range to 16 to 40, would likely show similar results.) This limited analysis certainly raises serious questions about widely reported United Nations provided estimates of 70 – 80 percent civilian fatalities.

Rudoren also cites the analysis of Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), which in its first analysis described as “that is impressive in its documentation, using photographs and Internet tributes” found that 47% of those killed according to Palestinian sources were in fact fighters. ITIC subsequently updated its study to 300 reported fatalities and now concludes that “terrorist operatives constitute about 49% and non-involved civilians constitute about 51% of the names.” However, ITIC cautions “Due to Hamas’s policy of concealment and deception, we believe that the number of terrorist operatives that we have identified, based on the lists examined to date, is minimal.”

Elsewhere Rudoren writes:

It seems unlikely that there will ever be a definitive breakdown both sides accept: Israel contends that some of the casualties were caused by errant Hamas rockets or mortars. Human rights groups acknowledge that people killed by Hamas as collaborators and people who died naturally, or perhaps through domestic violence, are most likely counted as well.

This is not necessarily so. About two years after Operation Cast Lead, Hamas claimed that between 600 and 700 of its fighters – in line with Israeli estimates – had been killed in that conflict.

The Israeli casualty figures from Cast Lead and ITIC research from Operation Protective Edge both show a combatant/civilian ratio of 1:1, which according military expert, Col. Richard Kemp is virtually unheard of. After Cast Lead, Kemp praised Israel’s efforts to avoid collateral damage:

The UN estimate that there has been an average three-to one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed.

That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one.

In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia.

In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one.

Israel’s record at avoiding civilian casualties is especially remarkable given Hamas’ documented use of human shields.

[Source: idfnadesk / YouTube ]