The Israeli government claims to have proof that at least half of all people slain during their offensive in the Gaza strip were militants. If true, that number would stand in stark contrast to figures from Palestinian officials, who say 80% of the nearly 2,000 Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge were non-combatants.
Reuters reported on the Israeli government's claim over the weekend. They quote prominent former politician Tzachi Hanegbi telling Israel’s Channel Two Television that Israel’s analysis of the death toll in Gaza is far different from the U.N.’s. The primary reason the discrepancy exists is that Hamas declines to differentiate between civilian and militant deaths in their reports.
"There is research being done in the military, very professionally and reliably, (whose) conclusion is that at least 47% of the fatalities are terrorists, with photographs and names," Hanegbi said.
That claim was elaborated on by Steven Sotsky, an analyst working for the pro-Israel research group entitled The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). In a recent piece for TIME, Sotsky points out that a disproportionate number of Palestinian deaths are men ages 17-30 years old.
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Sotsky writes that despite accounting for just 10% of the Gazan population, 17-30 year old men account for 44% of fatalities from the conflict. This trend, Sotsky claims, wouldn’t exist if Israel were indiscriminately bombing civilians.
“Scrutiny of Palestinian figures in the current conflict reveals a spike in fatalities among males ages 21 to 27 and an over-representation from ages 17 to 30,” Sotsky writes. “Data gleaned from the daily reports of the PCHR show that from July 8, the start of Israel’s 'Operation Protective Edge,' through July 26, 404 out of 915 fatalities tallied from daily reports in which the ages were identified occurred among males ages 17 to 30, comprising 44% of all fatalities among a group representing about 10% of Gazans.”
In contrast, Sotsky notes that females account for less than 10% of casualties, but make up over 25% of the Gazan population. And children, he writes, represent 20% of the deaths in the conflict but represent over 50% of Gaza’s population.
Taken together, here is how Sotsky interprets the information:
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“The demographic analysis of the fatalities in the Gaza conflict has limitations. It can’t identify who is or isn’t a combatant. But the spike in fatalities among males starting in their late teens and peaking in their early to mid-twenties, and the divergence of the pattern of fatalities from the demographic pattern of the population, raises considerable doubt about claims that as many as 75% or more of the fatalities are non-combatants.”
The analysis of Sotsky and the IDF seems to make the inference that their actions in Gaza would be more acceptable if, say, only 50% of the deaths in the conflict were non-combatants. But are they? Is the killing of 900 non-combatants really going to be considered that much better than the killing of 1,500 non-combatants? That is for everyone to decide on their own.