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Hamas' 'Civilian Casualties': A Game of Numbers

Hamas's PR war against Israel claims thousands of civilian casualties. But does the math add up?
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 8/7/2014, 3:43 PM

Gaza casualties: civilians or terrorists?
Gaza casualties: civilians or terrorists?
Reuters

A staggering amount of so-called "civilian casualties" in Gaza were probably Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists, the New York Times admits for the first time this week, challenging the routine acceptance of casualty figures provided by the Hamas-run health ministry.

The report critically examines the data from the Palestinian Health Ministry, the official data center at Shifa Hospital that releases the names and statistics for casualties in Gaza - and is run by a known Hamas terrorist, Dr. Ashraf Al-Qurda. 

The PHM lists 1,865 “martyrs” from “Israeli aggression” since July 6 - two days before Operation Protective Edge officially began; of those, 429 were allegedly under age 18, 79 over 60, and 243 were women. 

Notably, the PHM does not differentiate between terrorists and civilians, but several "Palestinian rights groups" - including one UN-based group - do, and have estimated the civilian casualty rate at between 72-82%.

Israel, however, counters that some 900 of those killed, or 47%, were terrorists. Such a ratio of combatant to non-combatant casualties - roughly 1:1 - would be almost unprecedented in the history of urban warfare.

'Policy of deception'

However, even the Times admits that the PR war on Israel is a matter of numbers - and that the Palestinian arithmetic does not add up.

The Times notes that Israeli organizations have a well-documented - though only partial - list of casualties that is supported by a wellspring of documentation. 

According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, data from the first 300 casualties in Gaza indicates that some 142 Gazans listed as "civilian casualties" were terrorists - some 49% - whereas just 147 (51%) were actual civilians.

In addition, it said, 18 bodies have yet to be identified as belonging to either category - and could potentially swing the statistics either way. 

Meanwhile, the Times admitted that of the PHM information, "the population most likely to be militants, men ages 20-29, is also the most overrepresented in death toll: they are 9% of Gaza's 1.7 million residents, but 34% of those killed whose ages are provided." 

Hamas has a "policy of deception," according to the ITIC, noting that hundreds of terrorists have not been listed under PHM records at all. ITIC also noted the many incidents reported to be Hamas purposely skewing the numbers in live media coverage as part of the "media war" against Israel. 

Proof has surfaced that Hamas has repeated names more than once in the casualty count it gives major media outlets, such as Al-Jazeera. 

A report by pro-Israel blogger Israellycool suggested two weeks into the month-long offensive that Hamas was ballooning its numbers even then - and has provided a list marking where repeated names appear to have been snuck into the body count. 

To top it off, the IDF's own reports on the 3,360 rockets fired on Israeli citizens have proven, over and over again, that a significant number of rockets have misfired and hit areas within Gaza itself - including the Shati refugee camp.

As of August 7, 3,360 rockets were confirmed fired on Israel in a 30-day period - and as many as 475 fell inside Gaza.

It is unknown whether Hamas has included casualties from these events - which are always blamed on Israeli airstrikes - as part of its "civilian casualties" in Gaza. 

It is also unclear whether some 30 Gazans murdered by Hamas gunmen as "collaborators" during the conflict were also inserted into the list.

A glimpse into 'Gazawood'

A footnote in the ITIC report notes that the body count is even faked for the cameras; a France 24 broadcast blurred out the military paraphernalia among casualties shown on air, and that in at least one instance, a Palestinian took one rifle out of the scene, handed it to a fellow terrorist, and told him to hide it. 

Hamas fighters often do not wear military fatigues in combat, so once they ditch their weapons they are indistinguishable from the civilian population.

Photos have also been doctored throughout the conflict, as numerous photos circling social media have been proven - even by BBC, which itself is often accused of having an anti-Israel slant - to be recycled photos from war-torn Syria and even scenes from horror films or other staged events. 

Destroyed buildings also have conspicuous and out-of-place elements among the rubble; often, photos will show entire buildings demolished and concrete beams in piles of rubble, yet a plastic doll or cheap stroller remains, somehow, mysteriously whole, intact, and prominent for the cameras.