Thursday, August 07, 2014

7-Aug-14: Some perspective on those Hamas casualty numbers

December 8, 2012 at the end of a previous battle in this ongoing
war: hundreds of thousands of men, women and children rally to express
support for Hamas' rocket-fueled brand of jihad [Image Source]
For now, at least, we are in the post-battle phase of this latest war with the darkness of Gaza. And as we are sadly accustomed to seeing from past experience, otherwise-reasonable voices are being heard attacking Israel for disproportionately responding to the undoubted-aggression of Hamas and its jihad-minded hordes.

The loudest condemnations stem from a perception that Israel has somehow done much worse than the civilized world demands of itself in causing deaths and suffering among Gaza's innocents. Casualty tables, always based on Hamas estimates, are being quoted with pseudo-righteous indignation along with demands that someone on the Israeli side pay a price. No such indignation appears to have been expressed about the more-than-3,000 rockets fired at Israeli communities with total indiscrimination during the past month.

An article published this morning over at The Tower looks critically at this use of Hamas data, and comes to a very different viewpoint. Here's the full text;

The Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times, Jodi Rudoren, reported on a recent analysis of the known Palestinian fatalities in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. According to their analysis based on Palestinian Health Ministry figures, only 34 percent of fatalities comprised women, underage children, and the elderly. Of the rest, 55 percent were fighting-age men, and another 11 percent were listed as “unknown.”

If confirmed, these figures would significantly undermine claims that Israeli military operations indiscriminately or wantonly targeted civilians–claims that have been based on very different numbers coming from the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry as well as UN bodies.

The Times analysis, looking at 1,431 names, shows that the population most likely to be militants, men ages 20 to 29, is also the most overrepresented in the death toll: They are 9 percent of Gaza’s 1.7 million residents, but 34 percent of those killed whose ages were provided. At the same time, women and children under 15, the least likely to be legitimate targets, were the most underrepresented, making up 71 percent of the population and 33 percent of the known-age casualties.

While not all twenty to twenty nine year-olds are necessarily combatants this suggests that Israel has been careful in its targeting. (An expansion of the age range to 16 to 40, would likely show similar results.) This limited analysis certainly raises serious questions about widely reported United Nations provided estimates of 70 – 80 percent civilian fatalities.

Rudoren also cites the analysis of Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), which in its first analysis described as “that is impressive in its documentation, using photographs and Internet tributes” found that 47% of those killed according to Palestinian sources were in fact fighters. ITIC subsequently updated its study to 300 reported fatalities and now concludes that “terrorist operatives constitute about 49% and non-involved civilians constitute about 51% of the names.” However, ITIC cautions “Due to Hamas’s policy of concealment and deception, we believe that the number of terrorist operatives that we have identified, based on the lists examined to date, is minimal.”

Elsewhere Rudoren writes:
It seems unlikely that there will ever be a definitive breakdown both sides accept: Israel contends that some of the casualties were caused by errant Hamas rockets or mortars. Human rights groups acknowledge that people killed by Hamas as collaborators and people who died naturally, or perhaps through domestic violence, are most likely counted as well.

This is not necessarily so. About two years after Operation Cast Lead, Hamas claimed that between 600 and 700 of its fighters – in line with Israeli estimates – had been killed in that conflict.

The Israeli casualty figures from Cast Lead and ITIC research from Operation Protective Edge both show a combatant/civilian ratio of 1:1, which according military expert, Col. Richard Kemp is virtually unheard of. After Cast Lead, Kemp praised Israel’s efforts to avoid collateral damage:
The UN estimate that there has been an average three-to one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed. That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one.In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia. In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one.

Israel’s record at avoiding civilian casualties is especially remarkable given Hamas’ documented use of human shields.

We add this:

It's moments like this that rational people are entitled to ask how it is that the inflammatory, self-serving and often-absurd claims of the jihadists of Hamas are routinely (and correctly) discounted in normal times as being fact-light propaganda... but when there are dead bodies and the rockets of war, politicians and reporters tread oh-so-carefully to avoid any perception that they are favoring one side or the other. At such times, the Hamas disinformation industry, working overtime, finds far too many takers.

We say the threats of the terrorists should always be taken seriously. Their claims of victimhood, sacrifice and fury, on the other hand, need always to be met with maximum skepticism. Buying the terrorist's appalling arguments means standing with them.

1 comment: said...

In the second battle of Falluja in November 2004, the US military fired over 5000 high-explosive artillery shells. They also used rockets, missiles and precision bombs as well as bulldozers to clear buildings in savage street battles remarkably similar to the present conflict in Gaza. Civilian casualties were high and many thousands of homes, schools and mosques were destroyed. Islamist fighters used mosques to hide their weapons. S H Cohen