International Institute for Counter-Terrorism has carried out an intensive research project to gain a clearer picture of the casualties of the IDF military incursion in Gaza in December 2008-January 2009. The research was based on the list of casualties published by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), supplemented by Hamas and Fatah websites and official Palestinian government online sources.
Although the study relied on the PCHR’s raw data throughout, our analysis of this data disproves the PCHR’s claims regarding “indiscriminate Israeli fire” on civilian areas. In fact, by checking the names on the PCHR list against Hamas websites, we found that many of those claimed by PCHR to be “civilians” were in fact hailed as “militant martyrs” by Hamas. Others listed by PCHR as “civilians killed in Israeli raids” later turned out to be Fatah members killed by Hamas, some of them in “execution style” killings.
Beyond the PCHR’s failure to apply its own standards accurately in determining who was and was not a militant, any black-and-white categorization scheme like theirs is bound to be ludicrously inadequate in characterizing a conflict where fighters do not wear uniforms, where combatants are intimately (and deliberately) commingled with noncombatant civilians, and where many unaffiliated civilians become actively involved in confronting invading forces and thus become “ad hoc combatants”.
While Hamas and its allies did everything possible to maximize the extent to which the civilian population of the Gaza Strip would be exposed to combat should Israel respond in force to cross-border missile attacks on Israeli towns, a closer look at the demographics of the casualties reveals that at least 63% to 75% of the Palestinians killed in Operation Cast Lead were combat-aged males over and above the number that would be accounted for by random Israeli attacks. This group includes identified combatants, policemen, and several hundred additional young men whose combatant status could not be verified from the sources we used. Thus, PCHR’s own data refutes its claim that Israel’s attacks were “indiscriminate”.