The Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, today issues itsfindings on the number of Palestinians and Israelis killed during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The figures, which it says are the result of “months of meticulous investigation and cross-checks” sharply conflict with those published by the Israeli military – especially on the question of civilian casualties.
Israel has said that 1,166 Palestinians were killed and that 60% of them were members of Hamas and other armed groups. According to the military, only 295 Palestinians killed were “not involved” in the fighting.
B’Tselem says Israeli security forces killed 1,387 Palestinians. Of these, 773 did not take part in the hostilities, including 320 minors and 109 women over the age of 18. “Of those killed, 330 took part in the hostilities, and 248 were Palestinian police officers, most of whom were killed in aerial bombings of police stations on the first day of the operation. For 36 people, B’Tselem could not determine whether they participated in the hostilities or not.”
The extremely heavy civilian casualties and the massive damage to civilian property require serious introspection on the part of Israeli society. B'Tselem recognizes the complexity of combat in a densely populated area against armed groups that do not hesitate to use illegal means and find refuge within the civilian population. However, illegal and immoral actions by these organizations cannot legitimise such extensive harm to civilians by a state committed to the rule of law.
The extent of civilian fatalities does not, in itself, prove that Israeli violated the laws of war. However, the figures must be considered within the context of the numerous testimonies given by soldiers and Palestinians during and after the operation, which raise grave concerns that Israel breached fundamental principles of international humanitarian law and caused excessive harm to civilians.
Palestinians killed nine Israelis during the operation: three civilians and one member of the security forces by rockets fired into southern Israel, and five soldiers in Gaza.
Palestinians killed in Gaza: B'Tselem's figures
|Did not take part in the hostilities||773|
|Of them, women (over 18)||109|
|Of them, minor boys & girls (under 18)||320|
|Took part in the hostilities||330|
|Police officers killed at police stations||248|
|Unknown if took part in the hostilities||36|
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 9 September 2009.