The vast majority of the Palestinians killed in Israel’s aggression in the Gaza Strip last winter were innocent civilians rather than “combatants”, according to a new report published by the B’Tselem organization Wednesday morning. This is the opposite of what the Israel occupation forces has said.
According to B’Tselem, 1,387 Palestinians were killed during the three weeks of “Operation Cast Lead”, of whom 773 were “noncombatants” and only 330 were “combatants”. B’Tselem wrote that its figures were “the result of months of meticulous investigation and cross-checks with numerous sources.”
The remaining 248 were Hamas policemen killed when Israel bombed Palestinian police facilities at the start of the operation. The Israeli military has argued that these policemen, as armed Hamas members, should be considered combatants. However, B’Tselem noted that they took no part in the actual fighting. In 36 cases, the organization was unable to determine whether the casualties were “combatants” or “noncombatants”.
Of the civilians killed, 320 were minors under the age of 18 and another 109 were women, the organization said. The Israeli occupation, in contrast, claims that 1,166 Palestinians were killed during Cast Lead, of whom 709 were Hamas combatants and 295 were civilians. It said it was unable to determine the status of the remaining 162. The Israeli military lists 89 children under age 16 and 49 women among the fatalities, whereas B’Tselem lists 252 children under 16 and 111 women over this age.
Unlike the Israeli military, however, B’Tselem listed each casualty by name, and said it had collected eyewitness testimony, death certificates or other evidence for each. Gaza emergency medical services say 1,382 Palestinians were killed in the offensive, 447 of them under the age of 18.
“Behind the dry statistics lie shocking individual stories,” the organization said in a press communique. “Whole families were killed; parents saw their children shot before their very eyes, relatives watched their loved ones bleed to death; and entire neighborhoods were obliterated.”
“The extremely heavy civilian casualties and the massive damage to civilian property require serious introspection on the part of Israeli society,” B’Tselem statement said, calling on Israel to conduct an “independent and credible” investigation.
The organization’s spokeswoman, Sarit Michaeli, told Haaretz that B’Tselem researchers had examined every possible source of information, from the findings of in-house Israeli occupation forces investigations to lists prepared by Palestinian human rights organizations. However, she said, they were unable to compare their fatality list to that of the Israeli military because the occupation army refused to give it to them. She added that B’Tselem had identified 19 minors as “combatants”, but this did not come close to explaining the difference in the two sets of figures.