'Civilian deaths in Gaza op were higher'

B'tselem claims that despite official IDF figure, more than half of 1,382 fatalities were noncombatants.

Gaza rubble 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Gaza rubble 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
More than half of the 1,382 Palestinians who were killed by the IDF in Operation Cast Lead did not take part in hostilities, the human rights organization B'Tselem said in a special report being published Wednesday morning regarding Palestinian fatality figures during the fighting. B'Tselem wrote that its figures were "the result of months of meticulous investigation and cross-checks with numerous sources." According to the report, 774 of the Palestinians who were killed did not take part in hostilities, including 320 minors and 111 women over the age of 16. Of those killed, 325 took part in the hostilities and 245 were Palestinian officers, most of whom were killed in IAF aerial bombings of police stations on the first day of the war. The report could not account for the identity of 38 others. The figures published by B'Tselem contrast sharply with those provided after the fighting by the IDF. Israel maintains that 1,166 Palestinians were killed. About 700 of them were members of Hamas or other armed military groups and 295 were not involved in the fighting. Israel also claims that 89 minors under the age of 16 were killed. However, B'Tselem says its representatives visited homes and gathered death certificates, photos and testimonies relating to 290 children under age 16 who were killed. The organization has posted all of the names of the dead on its Web site. It said it asked the army to provide it with its own list of Palestinian fatalities so that it could compare the two and try to match names. However, B'Tselem said the IDF refused to comply. "Behind the dry statistics lie shocking individual stories," the organization said in a press communique. "Whole families were killed; parents saw their children shot before their very eyes, relatives watched their loved ones bleed to death; and entire neighborhoods were obliterated." B'Tselem said that, given the extensive damage inflicted by the IDF on the Gaza Strip, Israel should "conduct an independent and credible investigation and not make do with military debriefings." The IDF did not offer a response to this report by press time.