Doing the Math About Gazan Casualties

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Palestinian and Qatar flags fly in the Gaza Strip before Qatari emir’s visit in 2012 to show support for Hamas. (Flash90/Abed Rahim Khatib)

by Victor Rosenthal

“They were only children,” wept the New York Times, in its heartrending appeal for sympathy for Gazans, supposedly under “indiscriminate and disproportionate” bombardment by the IDF.

Is it true that Israel negligently murdered children (or anyone) in its response to rocket attacks from Gaza? Let’s look at the numbers, following the intrepid Nevet Basker.

Some 4,350 rockets were launched by Hamas and other terrorist factions in Gaza at cities and towns in Israel. Of these, about 1,400 were intercepted by Iron Dome. 680 of them fell short, and landed in Gaza.

Iron Dome only intercepts rockets that have a chance of hitting populated areas, and it had a 90% success rate in downing those. 1,400 is 90% of 1555, so that means that some 155 of Hamas’ rockets landed in populated areas of Israel.

These 155 rockets, which are designed to spray shrapnel over a wide area to kill and injure people, caused 12 fatalities in Israel.

Now keep in mind that Israel has bomb shelters for civilians (in Gaza, only soldiers and bombs have shelters) and an elaborate fine-grained warning system. Keep in mind that military targets in Gaza, including rocket launchers, are deliberately located in civilian areas.

How many Gazans were killed or maimed by those 680 rockets that fell short? Even if we ignore the better protection enjoyed by Israelis, proportionately we should expect about 52 deaths in Gaza from their own rockets. I’m going to reduce that number to 30, because, despite what anti-Israel people like to say, Gaza is not “the most densely populated place on earth,” and there are empty places for rockets to land).

According to Hamas, there were a total of 256 Gazans killed. The IDF estimates that it killed 225 fighters. Let’s give Hamas the benefit of the doubt and accept its number. And just to be even more generous, let’s say the IDF exaggerated a bit and only 200 of the dead were Hamas fighters.

That leaves 56 civilian casualties. At the very least 30 of them were killed by the “friendly” fire of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, leaving 26 that can be attributed to the IDF’s bombing of military targets.

So here is a 10-day air campaign in a dense urban environment – which I remind you was undertaken in self-defense, after Israel was attacked, in which there were only 26 civilian casualties as a result.

This is a record that no other military force in history, even the most advanced Western armies, can match.

“Indiscriminate and disproportionate?” I think not.