Italian journalist Lorenzo Cremonesi, who works with the Corriere della serra newspaper, reported Thursday that Hamas had vastly overstated the number of civilian deaths in Gaza. While Hamas claims that 1,330 residents of Gaza were killed in the operation and approximately 5,000 wounded, the real number of casualties was far lower, Cremonesi says.
Cremonesi's report was based on his own findings after touring hospitals in Gaza and talking to families of those killed or wounded. “It is sufficient to visit several [Gaza] hospitals to understand that the numbers don't add up,” he explained.
Cremonesi estimated that between 500 to 600 people were killed in the fighting. Most were young men between the ages of 17 and 23 who were members of Hamas, he said.
Many hospitals had several empty beds, he reported. Hamas has stated that Gaza hospitals are filled to capacity due to the large number of victims, with many of the wounded being turned away due to the shortage of doctors and supplies.
The Italian report also confirmed Israeli allegations that Hamas had used civilians as human shields and used ambulances and United Nations buildings in the fighting. Those who tried to drive the terrorists away in order to protect their families were beaten.
Civilians told Cremonesi that they shouted at Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists to leave the area to avoid drawing Israeli fire on civilians. The terrorists responded by calling them “traitors,” “collaborators” and “cowards,” and insisted that any civilians killed would be martyrs destined for paradise.
Civilians also reported that Hamas terrorists disguised themselves as paramedics and drove ambulances during the fighting. In addition, terrorists launched rockets from UN buildings. Many of these actions are defined as war crimes.
"The knew they were weaker, but they wanted them [the Israelis] to fire on our houses, so they could accuse them of war crimes,” a resident of the Gazan village Tel Awa explained.
Cremonesi said it was difficult to gather evidence against Hamas because residents were fearful. Civilians feared that if it was known they spoke against the group, they would be harshly punished, he explained.
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