Despite a report by Lorenzo Cremonesi, a correspondent for Italy's Corriere della sera, that the number of Palestinians killed in Operation Cast Lead did not exceed five or six hundred, 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 has already compiled a list with 900 names of Palestinians killed during the operation, out of which 750 are believed to be Hamas operatives.
The IDF estimated that two-thirds of those killed were gunmen affiliated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror factions. At least 500 are believed to have been members of Hamas's military wing.
Hamas, defense officials said, purposely covered up the number of dead and on Sunday claimed that only 48 members of its military wing had been killed. Many bodies belonging to Hamas operatives were being stored - officials said - in the morgue in Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
The vast majority of the Hamas operatives killed were not wearing uniforms to disguise their affiliation, another reason for the exaggerated estimate of civilian casualties by the United Nations.
The IDF's Military Intelligence has set up a team to come up with a comprehensive list including the names and affiliation of all of the Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead. The list, officials said, would be completed in the coming two weeks.
In addition to reporting that no more than 500 or 600 Palestinians were killed in Gaza during the IDF operation, Cremonesi, who based his report on tours of hospitals in the Gaza Strip and on interviews with families of casualties, assessed the number of wounded to be far lower than 5,000, the number quoted by Hamas and repeated by the UN and the Red Cross in Gaza.
"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."
"Traitors, collaborators with Israel, spies of Fatah, cowards! The soldiers of the holy war will punish you. And in any case you will all die, like us. Fighting the Zionist Jews we are all destined for paradise. Do you not wish to die with us?" the religious fanatics of Hamas reportedly responded.
Other Palestinians told Cremonesi of Hamas operatives donning paramedic uniforms and commandeering ambulances. A woman identified as Um Abdullah, 48, spoke of Hamas using UN buildings as launch pads for rockets.
Cremonesi reported that he had difficultly gathering evidence as the local population was terrified of Hamas.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Israel Defense Force Compiling List of Gaza Dead
The latest version of the Jerusalem Post article on the Italian reporter Cremonesi's article for Corriere della sera gives some preliminary numbers for the Israel Defense Force (IDF) count of total Palestinian deaths in the Gaza fighting. IDF has estimated 1,300 Palestians were killed and has so far identified 900 by name. Of those IDF has identified, at least 750 were Hamas operatives. So at least 750 of 1,300 were Hamas operatives, a minimum of 57% of the deaths. The IDF is estimating that the final count will show 66% of the deaths were gunmen with Hamas or other Palestinian terror factions.