Yaakov Katz, the Jerusalem Post’s military correspondent, reports that the Israel Defense Forces are refuting a claim by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that the number of Palestinian deaths in the recently concluded Israeli offensive in Gaza was wildly exaggerated.
Lorenzo Cremonesi, a reporter for Corriere on the scene in Gaza writes that no more than 500-600 Palestinians were killed, not 1,300 as many reports have claimed. He also says that the number is far less than the 5,000 figure which has also been reported.
Katz quotes Cremonesi as saying:
“It is sufficient to visit several hospitals [in the Gaza Strip] to understand that the numbers don’t add up,” he wrote.
In the European hospital in Rafah, one of the facilities which would presumably be filled with wounded from the “war of the tunnels,” many beds were empty, according to Cremonesi. A similar situation was noted in the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, and in the privately-run Amal Hospital Cremonesi reported that only five out 150 beds were occupied.
Cremonesi interviewed Gazans who echoed Israel’s insistence of how Hamas gunmen used civilians as human shields. One Gazan recalled civilians in Gaza shouting at Hamas and Islamic Jihad men, “Go away, go away from here! Do you want the Israelis to kill us all? Do you want our children to die under their bombs? Take your guns and missiles with you.”
But according to Katz, Israeli military officials are sticking with the number of 1,300 deaths:
Israeli defense officials on Thursday said there were around 1,300 Palestinians killed during the fighting in Gaza and that a majority of them were Hamas operatives.
The IDF’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration have already compiled a list with 900 names of Palestinians killed during the operation, out of which 750 are believed to be Hamas operatives.
Perhaps the IDF is right in their unwillingness to lower their casualty estimates. But the reporting of Cremonesi, who writes for a newspaper that has not exactly been known as a stalwart supporter of the Jewish state, should at least raise some doubts about the official numbers.
Can this be a replay of the case of Mohammed Al Dura, the Palestinian boy who was shot at the beginning of the second intifada?
If you recall, the picture of that boy cradled in his father’s arms became an international scandal and an iconic image of alleged Israeli cruelty. The IDF took responsibility for his death and apologized even though there were doubts immediately raised as to whether the bullets that allegedly killed the boy were Israeli rather than Palestinian. Subsequent investigations showed that there was no way for the Israelis to have killed the boy and the IDF took back their claim of responsibility.
Some doubt whether the whole incident was a fraud, a piece of “Pallywood” fakery created by the Palestinian propaganda machine and eagerly devoured by a credulous media. But whether that’s true or not, had the IDF been a bit more skeptical about the false claims made regarding the case, it’s possible that the story wouldn’t have become such a big propaganda success for the anti-Israel crowd.
The point here is not to make an argument for or against any specific number. And it should be stipulated that all civilian deaths in the fighting are a tragedy, albeit one necessitated by Hamas’s terrorism. But the Palestinians have a long record of making false casualty and atrocity claims — such as the Jenin “massacre” in 2002 which even the United Nations eventually admitted wasn’t true. Given Hamas’s complete lack of credibility, I’d say Cremonesi’s report deserves a closer look.