". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13

Commentary

Israel Estimates ‘Approximately 1:1’ Civilian-Combatant Death Ratio in Gaza

May 16, 2024

More than 14,000 terrorist combatants have died in Gaza since October 7, compared to approximately 16,000 civilians, according to a new Israeli estimate released Monday. “We would expect everyone to now take these figures as a genuine estimate from a free democratic country that fights in strict accordance with the laws of armed conflict in one of the most challenging urban warfare scenarios in history,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded.

This estimate of civilian casualties is the first released by Israel and is far lower than the number claimed by the Hamas-controlled Gazan Health Ministry. Hamas — a U.S. designated terrorist organization with a history of making false claims — has likely manipulated the casualty figures as a propaganda weapon against Israel. Israeli government spokesperson Avi Hyman complained that the Jewish state has been “condemned globally because of a fake and fabricated civilian death toll created and disseminated by Hamas.”

Media organizations around the world have uncritically cited the Hamas-controlled death tolls — which were the only ones available — to produce reporting heavily biased against Israel and even charges of “genocide.” Many of these were the same media organizations who rushed to blame Israel when a Gaza hospital was supposedly bombed — only for time to reveal that a rocket fired at Israel by a Hamas-aligned terror group had misfired and landed in the hospital’s parking lot. Thus:

  • On April 15, The Intercept suggested the Gaza death toll of “more than 33,000, including at least 15,000 children” were “likely undercounts.”
  • On April 22, The New York Times stated the Gaza death toll was more than 34,000 “according to health officials there.”
  • On April 24, a shockingly slanted screed by the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor claimed there were 42,510 dead, “38,621 of whom were civilians.” (That would leave 3,889 combatant casualties for a civilian-combatant casualty ratio of 10:1.)

On this point, The Guardian, a left-leaning, mainstream, British newspaper, was more responsible than many of its American counterparts. While citing Hamas’s death count of 34,000 in an April 20 report, The Guardian at least had the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that the numbers are published by “health authorities under the Hamas-run Gaza government” and “do not differentiate between civilians and Hamas fighters.”

Hamas’s death count suffered a major loss of prestige last week when the United Nations (U.N.) abandoned its figure for the number of children killed in the Gaza war. (U.N. agencies are obviously no friends of Israel.) As recently as March, the U.N. Children’s Fund had recorded 13,450 children killed in Gaza, citing Hamas’s figures. Last Wednesday, however, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) updated the number of children killed in the Gaza war as of April 30 to 7,797 — a 42% decline.

Th U.N.’s new number is far more compatible with that released this week by Israel, indicating that Hamas’s death inflation may be growing too unrealistic for even the most anti-Israel organizations to believe.

Granted, “every civilian casualty is a tragedy,” as Netanyahu said this week. However, those casualties “would not have happened if Hamas hadn’t insisted on using their own people as human shields.”

“What Israel has done is take the effort to minimize civilian casualties as no other army has done,” Netanyahu argued. “We use leaflets, we use millions of text messages, phone calls. We actually call the people, give up the benefit of surprise, tell them: ‘Get out of the way. Get out of the war zone so that we can accomplish our military objectives while you’re in a safe place.’”

In fact, Israel’s civilian-to-combatant casualty ratio is similar to or lower than that from many American military operations in the 21st century. Israeli strikes on terrorist targets have actually caused less collateral damage than, for instance, the 2008 Nineveh campaign in particular (2.4:1 civilian-to-military death ratio), or the entire 2003-2011 Iraq War in general (3.2:1 – 1.5:1). They have caused similar civilian casualties to the 2016-2017 Battle of Mosul (1.2:1 - 1:1.8) and the 2001-2021 Afghanistan War (1:1.2), the latter of which was waged amid rural, mountainous terrain instead of in crowded cities.

Israel’s low civilian death toll is especially remarkable due to the high population density in Gaza and the fact that their enemies deliberately shelter among civilian populations to maximize the collateral damage. “In reality, Israel is setting the new gold standard for urban warfare with what appears to be the lowest civilian to combatant casualty ratios in history,” Hyman insisted.

Israel’s own military losses have risen to 620, Hyman said. Israel could likely prosecute the war with fewer of its own casualties if it didn’t place such a priority on protecting Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, it has eliminated approximately 14,000 out of Hamas’s 35,000 terrorists, Netanyahu said. Many of the remaining terrorists are hiding behind one million Palestinian civilians in Rafah. The only way to end the war is for Israeli forces to move in and defeat Hamas, which will result in more civilian casualties. But, as the low casualty count shows, Israel is working to protect civilians, while the brutal international terror group is working to put them in harm’s way.

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.