How Many People Died in Gaza?

Monday, July 28, 2014 |  Ryan Jones

The current lull in the Gaza war has given the mainstream media the opportunity to focus on images of widespread destruction and high death tolls, and to blame it all on Israel.

Unfortunately, in both cases , most reporters rely on information provided them by Hamas, of which any reasonable observer would be skeptical, at best.

While many people certainly have lost their lives in Gaza, without a bit of fact-checking and providing proper context, it can be all too easy to accuse Israel of perpetrating a massacre.

Gaza’s Hamas-run Ministry of Health claims that well over 1,000 people have been killed so far in the current war, and has been releasing a regularly updated list of names.

A thorough analysis of that list by Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center concluded that a little less than one-third could be confidently classified as combatants, another third were definitely civilians, and the role of the last third could not be reasonably identified.

The problem is that Hamas purposely conceals whether or not the deceased were combatants, and so can make up any figure it wants when publicizing the percentage of civilians killed. Furthermore, a great many of those taking up arms again Israel do so in civilian garb, and so are counted among the civilian deaths.

Separate analyses by several Israeli bloggers noted that at least 75 percent of the names appearing on the Hamas-provided casualty list are males between the ages of 18–60 (men of fighting age), which is odd given that that demographic only makes up 20 percent of the overall Gaza population. The finding would suggest that Israel has been successful in its effort to avoid civilian deaths.

One of those bloggers dug just a little deeper and found that a great many names appearing on the casualty list were duplicates. Hamas has been inflating its casualty figures for the sake of Western media consumption, and reporters eager to stir heated emotions haven’t bothered to do even basic fact-checking.

And that brings us to the issue of demolished civilian buildings. Over the past few days, media outlets have hastened to report on the number of apartment buildings, family homes and public facilities flattened in the Israeli counter-offensive.

Again, this is typically done out of context, giving the impression that the Israeli army is arbitrarily bombarding civilian areas as a means of collective punishment.

The truth looks a little different.

Last week, we published a video provided by the IDF demonstrating why it decided to bomb a Gaza hospital that had been commandeered by Hamas, and showing that it only did so after confirming that no civilians remained in the building.

The following video reveals one of the reason that so many civilian homes have been targeted:

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