The ceasefire between Hamas and Israel has started, and the gates to Gaza have opened for the international press. Now a new battle will begin over numbers and ratios. There will be calls for investigations, and endless debates about who ‘won’. Israel’s claims of precision targeting will come under scrutiny, but so too should Palestinian accounts, including claims of mass civilian deaths.
At least 243 people are reported to have died in the Gaza Strip during Israel’s military action, including a reported 65 children. These figures rely on claims by the Gaza Health Authority – an unreliable body under Hamas control. The IDF says many civilian deaths are the result of Hamas’ own rockets, 600 of which they say fell into Gaza instead of reaching their targets in Israel.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said that 200 of those killed were terrorists. Israel suffered 12 casualties, including two children, an Indian care assistant and two Thai workers. As bodies are pulled from the rubble of Hamas’ network of military tunnels destroyed by Israeli strikes, the number of dead may rise.
In previous engagements, Israel has pored over details of every death, researching and documenting any terrorist affiliations it finds for each of those killed. It argues that Hamas tries to portray militants killed as civilians, and has documented this phenomenon before.
But why should we trust official information from one side and not the other? Firstly, one side’s claims come from the armed forces of a democratic country, while the other’s come from a violent extremist organisation ready to sacrifice its own population. But more importantly, Hamas and other Palestinian groups have lied in the past, and even admitted it.
For example, Hamas claimed the violent marches it organised in 2018 towards the Gaza-Israel border were peaceful protests.