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May 25, 2021 6:06 pm

In First Two Days of Conflict, Over 70% of Gaza Casualties Caused by Israeli Strikes Were Combatants: Analysis

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli soldiers stand by an artillery unit as it fires near the border between Israel and the Gaza strip, on the Israeli side May 17, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

A study of the first two days of the recent clashes between Israel and Hamas showed that more than 70% of the casualties caused by Israeli airstrikes were militant operatives, and that 21% of the total deaths on those days were caused by errant Hamas rockets.

The preliminary study, released on Friday by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), analyzed the names and identities of 74 Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip between May 10 and May 12, based on death notices by various Palestinian sources, including Hamas.

The group’s breakdown of the casualties showed that 16 died as a result of errant rockets that were fired by Hamas but which landed in Gaza. Those deaths included two Fatah operatives, seven people with unknown civilian-combatant status, and seven minors.

Out of the remaining 58 deaths, which were caused by Israeli strikes, 42 were identified as terrorist activists; among the operatives were 30 Hamas militants, 8 Fatah operatives and 3 Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operatives. The other 16 deaths included six people listed with unknown civilian-combatant status; nine women or minors; and one 67-year-old male civilian.

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The findings show that “out of those killed in Gaza on the first two days of the conflict as a result of Israeli attacks, about two thirds were terrorists and that many of the civilians who lost their lives in Gaza on those two days were hit by Palestinian fire. The full research is still ongoing,” Brig. Gen. (Res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, director of the ITIC, told The Algemeiner.

Among the killed militants listed were Jamaa Tahla, head of Hamas’s cyber command; Jamal Zebeda, Hamas’ head of projects responsible for rocket development; Bassem Issa, Gaza City Brigade commander since 2017 and senior military official in the city; and Hazem Al-Khatib, head of Hamas’ engineering and production division.

The study was released after Israel and Hamas agreed to a bilateral ceasefire on May 21, which put an end to 11 days of rocket fire and violence. During the operation, named Guardian of the Walls, which started on May 10, about 4,340 rockets were fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, with 640 of them falling within Gaza. In response, Israel struck a total of 1,600 military targets, including 340 rocket launchers and destroyed more than 60 miles of underground terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip.

The hostilities claimed the lives of 12 Israelis, including one Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier. According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, about 250 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli attacks. The Gaza ministry does not provide specifics beyond selective information on the number of dead women and children, and does not distinguish between civilians and combatants killed.

“This time even fewer sources in the Gaza Strip (the Ministry of Health, and terrorist organizations) than in previous operations have made the deaths of terrorist operatives public. With the exception of senior activists on whose deaths official announcements were published on behalf of the militant groups to which they belonged,” the ITIC study found. “The Hamas administration is trying to create a false impression that the vast majority of those killed were uninvolved civilians. The Ministry of Health in Gaza emphasizes in announcements and in its publications the number of women, children and the elderly killed and unlike in the past it does not publish detailed lists that include the names of those killed. On social networks and Arab media channels a large number of killed terrorist operatives are listed as ‘civilians’ for the same reason.”

The ITIC analysis is based on Palestinian sources, photographs, social media tributes, and official feeds of Palestinian groups. As an example, the study cited information by the Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, which reported that at 6:10 p.m. on May 10, a shell hit the house of Attallah Almasri, in Beit Hanoun city, killing eight Palestinians, including six children, and injuring 18 more, of whom 10 were children. The Al Mezan Center did not attribute the incident to an Israeli air strike.

On May 10, the clashes were triggered by Hamas firing rockets towards Jerusalem after a 6 p.m. “ultimatum” elapsed which had called for Israel to withdraw security forces from the Temple Mount and release Palestinian prisoners. An Israeli security official said that the deaths of civilians in Gaza shortly after the Jerusalem attacks were caused by failed Hamas rockets, occurring before Israel commenced retaliatory airstrikes against the terrorist group hours later.

The ITIC said that due to the fact that the Israeli army used missiles during the hostilities rather than rockets or shells, it can be assumed that the May 10 attack can be attributed to terror organizations.

According to Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid, at least 50 Palestinians died in Gaza as a result of failed rockets by Hamas and 150 fighters were killed during the 11 days of clashes. The Israeli army has estimated the death toll of militant operatives at 200.

“In most of the statistics and reports by various sources including the Gaza Health Ministry and Palestinian NGOs or human rights groups they don’t distinguish in their casualties reports between civilians and fighters,” Eid told The Algemeiner. “They have their own agenda and it is not a humanitarian agenda. Not one Palestinian was reported to be killed by Gaza rockets by these sources.”

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