The B'Tselem organization has issued a report contradicting IDF casualty reports from Gaza. The group claims that 773 civilians were killed in Operation Cast Lead earlier this year, while only 330 of the dead were involved in fighting. A second report, from the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, backs the IDF.
The IDF, on the other hand, has reported that 1,166 Gaza residents were killed in Cast Lead, 709 of whom were involved in fighting. The IDF counted 295 civilian casualties, and an additional 162 men who may or may not have been involved in fighting.
In writing its report, B'Tselem considered 248 Hamas “policemen” who were killed in Cast Lead to be non-combatants, because, having been killed at the beginning of the operation, they took no part in combat during the three weeks of fighting. The IDF listed any armed member of Hamas as a combatant, including police.
B'Tselem's figures are similar to those issued by Hamas, which claims that over 1,350 Gaza residents were killed during the operation, most of them civilians.
The IDF and B'Tselem reports diverged dramatically when it came to women and children killed. The IDF counted 89 children under the age of 16 and 49 women as having been killed in fighting, while B'Tselem said that 290 children under the age of 16 and 111 women were killed.
In compiling its report, B'Tselem relied on testimony from Gaza Arabs and on documents provided by Gaza hospitals and the de facto Hamas government, primarily birth and death certificates. The report did not make use of IDF data. According to B'Tselem, the IDF refused to share its information.
B'Tselem counted nine Israeli casualties, ignoring four soldiers who died as a result of IDF “friendly fire.” No Arab casualties were attributed to “friendly fire.”
The B'Tselem report criticized Gaza-based terrorist groups for firing from within civilian areas, in violation of international law. By doing so, Gaza terrorists “demonstrate not only an intent to harm Israeli civilians, but also apathy to the safety of Palestinian civilians,” the group noted.
IICT Backs IDF
While B'Tselem has thrown its weight behind Hamas's claims of widespread civilian casualties, the IDF has support from the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya. In April, the IITC published a report using data gathered from Gaza organizations that concluded that most Cast Lead casualties were in fact terrorists.
The IITC report relied on demographic data. Based on the assumption that the names of casualties passed along by Gaza groups are accurate, the IITC did a demographic analysis and discovered that a highly disproportionate number of the “civilians” killed were men and teenage boys.
Further investigation showed that over 500 of the men and boys could not conclusively be determined to be non-combatants. Some of the “civilian casualties” claimed by Gaza human rights groups were also claimed by Hamas as martyrs who died for the sake of jihad (holy war).
Other civilians were found to be Fatah terrorists killed by Hamas during the fighting.
The report slammed the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in particular, for research claiming most of the deaths as civilian casualties. “Any black-and-white categorization scheme like theirs is bound to be ludicrously inadequate in characterizing a conflict where fighters do not wear uniforms, where combatants are intimately (and deliberately) commingled with noncombatant civilians, and where many unaffiliated civilians become actively involved in confronting invading forces and thus become 'ad hoc combatants',” IITC researchers wrote.