Bernie Sanders
Bernie SandersReuters

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has accused Israel of killing over 10,000 innocent civilians during 2014's war with Gazan terrorists - in a gross inflation of the casualty statistics enough to make even Hamas's own propaganda chiefs blush.

Sanders, who trails Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton by a significant margin, made the comments in a meeting with the New York Daily News editorial board, a transcript of which was published Tuesday.

Despite being the only Jewish candidate in either party (and despite a stint as a youngster at an Israeli kibbutz), Sanders - whose support base consists largely of far-left voters - is the least friendly towards Israel. He even went so far as to snub the recent AIPAC Policy Conference, by telling them his schedule wouldn't allow him to address the 18,000-strong lobby in DC last month.

In his comments to the New York Daily News, Sanders admitted he didn't know the precise casualty figures - but he didn't let the facts get in the way of a broadside guaranteed to ignite his left-wing supporters.

Only part of the conversation (a full transcript of which can be read here) revolved around Israel.

When asked how he would have handled the 2014 Operation Protective Edge "differently" to Israel - based on comments he made at the time attacking the IDF for its "disproportionate" use of force - Sanders initially was hesitant to give a clear answer.

"You're asking me now to make not only decisions for the Israeli government but for the Israeli military, and I don't quite think I'm qualified to make decisions," he said.

But then, while condemning Hamas for using civilian centers to fire and store rockets for use against Israelis, Sanders attacked Israel for not being "discriminate" enough in its use of force.

"Anybody help me out here, because I don't remember the figures, but my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right?" he asked.

When told that number appeared to be rather inflated, he added, "I don't have it in my number...but I think it's over 10,000. My understanding is that a whole lot of apartment houses were leveled. Hospitals, I think, were bombed. So yeah, I do believe and I don't think I'm alone in believing that Israel's force was more indiscriminate than it should have been."

The real figure is, in fact, just over 2,100 - more than half of them terrorist combatants. Apart from representing the lowest combatant-to-civilian casualty ratio of any conflict ever recorded, the number itself is around a fifth of what Sanders suggested.