Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC)
Examination of the number of Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead indicates that most were armed terrorist operatives and members of Hamas’s security forces involved in fighting against the IDF. Hamas has adopted a policy of concealing its casualties and attempts to include them in the overall number of civilians killed.
1. The results of an examination carried out by IDF Military Intelligence and issued by the IDF Spokesman show that during Operation Cast Lead (Dec. 27, 2008-Jan. 18, 2009) 1,166 Palestinians were killed. Most of them (709) belonged to terrorist organizations , i.e., Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and others. According to the findings, 295 non-combatant civilians were killed , among them women and children. The identity and degree of involvement of the remaining 162 Palestinians (all of them male) are unclear (IDF Spokesman's website, March 26, 2009 ).
2. Six hundred and nine of the 709 armed Palestinians killed during the operation were Hamas terrorist operatives and operatives belonging to the security forces under orders from the Hamas de-facto administration. In many instances, security force operatives also serve in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades , Hamas's military-terrorist wing. The Hamas administration issued a list of 232 internal security forces' operatives who were killed during Operation Cast Lead, but examination showed that many them also served as commanders and terrorist operatives in the Brigades. 1In addition, about 100 operatives belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations active in the Gaza Strip were also killed fighting at the side of Hamas against the IDF.
3. The findings of the examination showed that during Operation Cast Lead 295 non-combatant civilians were killed, 89 of them under the age of 16, and 49 of whom were women (IDF Spokesman's website, March 26, 2009 ). The basic reason behind the civilian casualties was Hamas's (and the other terrorist organizations') strategic decision to establish their military networks and fight against the IDF from within densely-populated civilian areas, making extensive use of the population as human shields (for example shooting from within or around residential dwelling and public institutions; booby-trapping civilian structures, including a school; operating from within groups of civilians, including children; and dressing terrorists as civilians, enabling them to melt into the civilian crowd). 2
Hamas's media policy: concealing its own casualties
while magnifying harm done to civilians
4. During Operation Cast Lead Hamas adopted the policy of concealing its own casualties to prevent morale from flagging and to reinforce the (false) impression that Israel was deliberately directing its military operations against Gazan civilians. Surfers on PALDF, Hamas's main Internet forum, were informed that it was strictly forbidden to post the names, pictures or any identifying details about “resistance” [i.e., terrorist] operatives killed or wounded until the end of the “Israeli aggression” in the Gaza Strip 3 (see the Appendix for the text of the instructions). In some instances reports were received of unofficial (and sometimes secret) and improvised burials during the fighting.
5. The policy of hiding the real number of terrorist operative casualties and issuing false reports about the number of civilians killed has continued after Operation Cast Lead . That was manifested by the creation of a false propaganda presentation of the mass killing of civilians in the Gaza Strip (the “holocaust” claimed by pro-Hamas propaganda) and the reduction or hiding of the blow dealt to Hamas's military infrastructure and its terrorist operatives. All of the above were aimed at serving the “victory narrative” which Hamas has been carefully constructing since the end of Operation Cast Lead.
6. Hamas, which controls all information originating in the Gaza Strip, issued exaggerated numbers of the number of “civilians” killed during Operation Cast Lead, while feeding the media false data and selective, biased reports about the number of armed operatives killed. That was done by lending a civilian character to security forces' operatives despite the fact that such operatives also serve in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades in unequivocally operational capacities. 4
7. The numbers of armed terrorists involved in the fighting are therefore swallowed by the general statistics, where their identity as terrorists is blurred and they are represented as civilians or innocent, harmless policemen deliberately killed by the IDF . As a result a gap has been created between the biased data provided by Hamas (which the human rights organizations base their reports on) and the aforementioned findings of the examination undertaken by IDF Military Intelligence .
8. After Operation Cast Lead the Palestinians media reported an exaggerated 1,330 deaths. 5 By the end of February the total had been inflated to 1,414 (according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights) and then to 1,452 (by a media report which originated with the Hamas de-facto administration 6). The continual increase in the numbers of the dead was not supported by reports of scores of newly-found bodies or deaths of the wounded.
9. The discrepancy between the initial and later numbers can be explained by the inclusion of those who were not actually killed during Operation Cast Lead or the addition of those who died of natural causes. 7
The instructions to conceal the identity and number of terrorist operatives killed and wounded posted on Hamas's PALDF forum during Operation Cast Lead
Important announcement regarding information and pictures
of the shaheeds of the resistance Dear Brothers!
“ In accordance with the policy of the factions of the jihad resistance in Gaza …we inform you that it is completely forbidden to issue information about the numbers, names or pictures or any [other] detail about the shaheeds and wounded of the resistance . The order is in force until the end of the Zionist aggression which is clear to us and our nation, with the consent of Allah, may he be exalted. Any [report] which violates these rules will be deleted and a warning will be sent to whoever is responsible for the posting. Let us all be soldiers of the resistance, and if we cannot assist it, at least let us not assist the enemy [fighting] against it.”
1 For further information see our March 24, 2009 bulletin entitled “Mounting evidence indicates that during Operation Cast Lead (and in ordinary times) members of Hamas's internal security forces served as commanders and operatives in Hamas's military wing (Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades)” at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_e067.pdf .
2 A great deal of information about the operational methods employed by Hamas and the other terrorist organizations during Operation Cast Lead from within the civilian can be found on the ITIC website. The IDF Spokesman noted that the IDF took far-reaching steps to prevent the civilian population from being harmed, and to that end distributed millions of flyers, utilized the Palestinian media, made telephone calls to Gazans, fired warning shots and briefed commanders and soldiers to exercise extreme caution when dealing with the civilian population (IDF Spokesman's website, March 26, 2009 ). Following reports in the Israel media about statements made by soldiers at the Rabin military preparation center, the Military Police held an investigation. It was found that crucial components of the soldiers' descriptions were based on hearsay and not supported by specific personal knowledge. Following the findings, the Israeli Military Advocate General, Brigadier General Avichai Mendelblit, decided to close the investigation and determined that no evidence had been found for the claims. (For details see the IDF Spokesman's website, March 30, 2009 .)
3 For further information see our January 12, 2009 bulletin entitled “ Hamas hides the casualties suffered by its operatives: Hamas's main online forum censors the publication of names and photographs of operatives . ”
4 Hezbollah used a similar media policy during and after the second Lebanon war, when it refrained from publishing the number of its operatives killed. It preferred to bury them in secret without media coverage, as a way of reinforcing its myth of the “divine victory.”
5 The human rights organizations operating in the Gaza Strip were willing to report data and information in line with Hamas's propaganda policy. However, when they tried to do so, their own reports revealed many difficulties in obtaining data and made it clear that no methodical, organized registration had been carried out and that they had had to rely on casual reports and statements given by families.
6 The number was reported by Muawiya Hassanein , head of emergency services in the Hamas administration's ministry of health, who told the press that the number of Gazan dead was 1,452 (Ma'an News Agency, February 25, 2009).
7 According to the population registry, an average of 415 Gazans die every month. Thus, during Operation Cast Lead, more than 300 died of natural causes in the Gaza Strip. Some of them may have been listed as having died as a result of the operation, a phenomenon familiar from former confrontations in the Palestinian arena.