Page last updated at 19:43 GMT, Thursday, 26 March 2009

Israel disputes Gaza death rates

Gaza under Israeli bombardment
Israel says warning were given before any civilian area was targeted

Israel says its calculation of the death toll from its assault on Gaza shows a much lower ratio of civilian deaths than other published figures.

Military researchers say 1,166 Palestinians were killed of whom 709 are described as "terror operatives" from the militant group Hamas.

The military adds it took "extensive measures" not to harm civilians.

New Palestinian research says the toll was 1,434, including 960 civilians, 235 fighters and 239 uniformed police.

Israel has been widely criticised for its operations in Gaza between 27 December and 18 January, especially over the high level of civilian casualties and the use of some weaponry in civilian areas.

In two reports published this week, UN human rights investigators said there was evidence of Israeli war crimes during the offensive, although Israel dismissed this.

Official Palestinian figures have put the final death toll at 1,475, including 943 civilians, including Palestinians who have died from their wounds in hospital.

'Unmatched achievement'

A statement by the Israeli military said it wanted to publish "accurate" figures to counter reports that "introduced false information originating from various Palestinian sources" about the number of war dead in the Gaza campaign.

Palestinians killed during Israeli military offensive in Gaza, 27 Dec to 18 Jan

Total dead: 1,166 (1,434)

Fighters: 710-870 (235)

Non-combatants: 295-460 (960)

Women: 49 (121)

Children under 16: 89 (288)

Sources: Israeli Defence Intelligence Research Dept (and Palestinian Centre for Human Rights)

It said figures were gathered by examining various intelligence sources and cross referencing the names and numbers reported killed as a result of its operations.

In addition to the "confirmed" militants, the army says there are 162 men who have not been identified as civilians but "not yet attributed to any organisation".

It puts the confirmed death toll of "uninvolved Palestinians" at 295, of whom 89 were children under 16 and 49 were women.

In quotes published a day before the circulation of the official Israeli figures, Israel's Southern Command chief Maj Gen Yoav Galant hailed the civilians-to-combatants ratio as an "achievement unmatched in the history of this kind of combat".

Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, were also killed during the offensive; four soldiers died from so-called "friendly fire".

Judicial redress

Earlier, a statement by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights listed 1,434 Palestinian dead in the 22-day offensive, and blamed Israel for excessive and indiscriminate destruction and violation of the laws of war.

Aftermath of bombing in Rafah, south-west Gaza
Palestinians accuse Israel of excessive and indiscriminate use of force

It said its calculation of 960 non-combatant fatalities included 288 children, 121 women, and 235 civilian policemen killed in air strikes on the first day of the attacks.

"The excessively disproportionate civilian death toll and Israel's conduct of hostilities... demand effective judicial redress," the group said in its statement.

It lists indiscriminate attacks, wilful killing, extensive destruction of property and the use of weapons such as white phosphorous in civilian areas as the main concerns.

The Israeli military says it is investigating specific claims of abuses and argues that it did its utmost to protect civilians during a conflict in which militants operated from populated civilian areas.

It accuses Hamas of using civilians as human shields and says it took "extensive measures in order to prevent harming uninvolved civilians".

In Thursday's statement, the military says its precautions included "dropping leaflets, broadcasting warnings in local Palestinian media, and placing numerous phone calls to homes" before they were targeted by bombing.

Last week several Israeli soldiers were quoted anonymously in the media saying troops had killed unarmed Palestinians, including women and children, by hastily opening fire under relaxed rules of engagement in Gaza.

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