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The Gaza Death Toll Dispute

The Italian journalist Lorenzo Cremonesi recently claimed that the death toll in Gaza has been inflated (read the original Italian article here and a summary in English here). His estimates, based on a conversations with a Palestinian doctor and Palestinian … Read More

By / January 23, 2009

The Italian journalist Lorenzo Cremonesi recently claimed that the death toll in Gaza has been inflated (read the original Italian article here and a summary in English here). His estimates, based on a conversations with a Palestinian doctor and Palestinian reporters* (who risked their lives telling him this), puts the number of casualties in Gaza at 500-600, and not 1,500 as the Palestinian Ministry of Health claims. "Most of them [were] youths between the ages of 17 to 23 who were recruited to the ranks of Hamas, who sent them to the slaughter."

Palestinian reporters drew a parallell between the latest round of fighting in Gaza with what is known as "the Jenin Massacre" in Palestinian mythology. During an IDF operation in April, 2002 against terrorists hiding among civilians in the Jenin refugee camp, Palestinians claimed that close to 1,500 people had been killed. The correct figure ended up being 54, out of which 45 were armed men.

Some suggest that the Palestinians in general and Hamas in particular have everything to gain from the exagerated casualty figures, which might explain why the Palestinian Ministry of Health would try to sex up the toll. Their website does appear less than objective.

The IDF refutes the deflated bodycount, too, curiously enough. Or not so curiously: the 400-mark was passed on New Years Day, so if Mr. Cremonesi’s numbers are to be trusted, the IDF kept this war going for another 17 days, dropped more than 1,500 tons of bombs and invaded the Strip with a massive ground force, but still only managed to kill an average of 10 Hamasniks a day. So what were they doing there all that time?

On the other side of this weird equation we have the 10 IDF soldiers that were killed during the war, at least three of them by friendly fire. We know that the Israeli soldiers were better trained and equipped, but still… Two weeks of fighting on the ground and the Hamasniks only managed to take out seven Jews? These numbers are just not consistent with what one would expect from urban warfare. Either the Hamas combatants were major hacks and/or cowards, or the IDF really didn’t engage them. Or both. Kind of like Capoeira: looks like they are kicking each other in the head, but they are actually dancing.

What the Hamasniks did find time to do instead of fighting the Zionist enemy was to torture their fellow Palestinians. People in Gaza got their eyes poked out, kneecaps shot, and bones broken, sometimes for the "crime" of smiling in public, which was interpreted as joy over Israel’s success in the war (which they simultaneuosly denied, of course).

The fog of war has obviously not cleared yet. All we know for certain is that this operation was named after a dreidel. We can assume that it will continue to spin for another little while.

* The original sentence erroneously stated that this claim was based on conversations with several doctors and tours of several hospitals. Corriere Della Sera relied on multiple sources, but only one was a physician. And while the original Italian article referred to several hospitals in Gaza, it is unclear that the author toured them all.

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