UN to compile Gaza war casualty report

Officials conducting independent probe into number of civilians killed in op as 'Post' publishes IDF info.

shifa hospital gaza hamas 248 (photo credit: AP [file])
shifa hospital gaza hamas 248
(photo credit: AP [file])
Amid controversy over the number of Palestinian civilians killed and wounded during Operation Cast Lead against Hamas last month, the United Nations is working on compiling its own report to determine the exact figure. On Monday, The Jerusalem Post reported that the IDF had compiled a list of names of more than 1,200 of the Palestinians reported to have been killed during the three-week conflict and that the civilian death toll was no higher than a third of the total. UN officials, Physicians for Human Rights in Israel and the International Committee of the Red Cross declined to comment on the IDF report. Work on the UN figures, which began before the IDF showed its information to the Post, is being led by OCHA (The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.) UN officials said Monday that researchers were scouring data on the number of casualties provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry, the IDF and Gaza-based human rights organizations. The work is complicated and will last several weeks, if not months, one official said. Basing its work on the official Palestinian death toll of 1,338, the IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration said it had identified more than 1,200 of the Palestinian fatalities and that 580 had been conclusively "incriminated" as members of Hamas and other terrorist groups. Some 300 of the dead - women, children aged 15 and younger and men over the age of 65 - had been categorized as noncombatants, the CLA said. Counted among the women, however, were female terrorists, including at least two women who tried to blow themselves up next to forces from the Givati and Paratroopers brigades. Also classed as noncombatants were the wives and children of Nizar Rayyan, a Hamas military commander who refused to allow his family to leave his home even after he was warned by Israel that it would be bombed. The 320 names yet to be classified are all men. The IDF has yet to complete its identification work in these cases, but estimates that two-thirds of them were terror operatives. "It [the IDF report] prompts inquiries," a UN official said. "The UN is researching from various sources the number of casualties to gain clarity on the number of people who were killed in the conflict." Defense sources also reiterated their earlier claim that three civilians and some nine terror operatives were killed in an IDF shelling near a UN school in Jabalya in early January, and not 40 or more people as was widely reported at the time based on Palestinian claims. A New York Times report from the Gaza funeral after the incident stated that "the row of bodies [were] uncountable in the press of the mourning crowd" and cited reports that as many as 40 people were killed in the shelling outside the school. It said Palestinian hospital sources reported that 10 of the dead were children and five were women, and quoted one mourner who said she had lost nine members of her extended family, age three to 25. The defense sources Monday said that the IDF had studied the incident and was adamant that its figures were correct. Judy Siegel contributed to the report.