How Many Civilian Casualties in Gaza?

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At the time of writing (Sept 2016), it is reported that over 800 civilians in Gaza have been killed in the current conflict with Israel. But is this true? Where did these figures come from? Are they reliable?

The short answer is that the figures come from Hamas and they are not reliable. They have been deliberately distorted. This is how.

In the first place, a directive from the Hamas Interior Ministry instructed spokesmen to report that ALL casualties are civilian. Further, they are instructed not to show pictures of rockets being fired from civilian areas. This can easily be confirmed by reference to the stalwart translation work of Memri.org.

Secondly, from Hamas sources Al-Jazeera has compiled a list of what it says are civilians killed. This shows that male deaths were over 80% of the total. Even more indicative, those men between the ages of 18 and 38 were over 65% of the total. This means that deaths among men of fighting age are disproportionately high.

Thirdly, the policy of Hamas to use civilians as human shields has contributed to what would normally be considered civilian deaths. Film of human shields gathered on top of target buildings is well-known. Likewise, film of Hamas leaders and copies of leaflets calling for human shields are easily accessible online.

Yet this practice is specifically banned in the laws of war, such as the Geneva Convention and its Protocols (e.g. Protocol 1, article 51 paragraphs 3 & 7). At a minimum, according to paragraph 7, this means that by taking part in hostilities civilians lose their legal protection, and therefore they can no longer be legitimately classified in this way.

Fourthly, Hamas casualty figures take no account of civilians killed or wounded by their own faulty rockets that have fallen on Gaza in error. Reporters have observed this happening and the IDF estimates that there have been around 100 such incidents.

Finally, Hamas never mention if their figures include Gazans executed in recent days by Hamas for allegedly collaborating with Israel.

In short, according to this Hamas-led approach, a miracle in reverse has occurred – the IDF has failed to kill any terrorists!

What this really means is that we are a long way from understanding the true number of civilian deaths. A further difficulty is to decide exactly who is a civilian. For example, does it exclude or include those who work for Hamas, finance it, provide it with hideaways and storage facilities for armaments or personnel, and so on?

A disturbing feature of all this is that large sections of the western media rely totally on Hamas hand-outs for information, which are accepted without any questioning, checking or challenge. It is notable that there is scarcely any investigative journalism coming out of Gaza. Overwhelmingly, the media is playing along with Hamas and distributing its propaganda on its behalf.

It is obviously distressing that civilians are killed in war. And the responsibility of any ethical army is to minimise this as far as practicable. But this responsibility for enemy civilians is but one of several responsibilities. There is also the responsibility of an army to protect its own civilians. Likewise, it has to protect its own personnel and to pursue its legitimate military tasks.

No-one has yet come up with a fool-proof method of securing these competing interests. This is compounded by the appalling strategy of Hamas of firing from civilian areas and public amenities.

Yet even though this is well-known, it fails to impress Israel’s critics who almost entirely willfully ignore these factors.

Naturally, none of the above indicates that Israel should be complacent about the level of civilian casualties. Nor is it. In reality, can anyone identify an army that takes such extensive measures to avoid civilian casualties as the IDF?

Unfortunately, and probably inevitably, these measures are not always successful. But what are we to make of allegations that Israel has deliberately acted to cause the maximum number of civilian deaths? Only a second or two of reflection shows that if this were the case civilian deaths would be hundreds of times greater.

Some have criticised Israel by implying that there is something immoral, unfair or illegal about the greater level of firepower used by Israel compared to Hamas.

In reality there is no duty or obligation whatsoever in law or morality for any army to restrict the degree of force it employs to the same or similar amount as that employed by the enemy. Nor is it required to produce only the same or a similar amount of damage or casualties. These are modern fabrications mainly used to target one state only, Israel.

In the current conflict in Gaza, there have been various calls for a solution that addresses the root causes of the problem. Well, the root cause of this war is not a secret. It is that Hamas is a fanatical genocidal anti-Semitic terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews.

Yet despite ample evidence for this available in English from Hamas sources online, it is somehow missed by those who rely on Hamas hand-outs for their information.

Jon Dyson

 

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