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Middle East
'Half of Gaza war dead civilians'
Israeli rights group says more than half of Palestinians killed in the war were civilians.
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2009 12:42 GMT
The Israeli military report into Palestinian casualties in the Gaza war was not independent [AFP]

An Israeli human rights group has said more than half of the Palestinians killed in the 22-day Israeli offensive on Gaza were civilians.

The new figures contradict an Israeli military claim that most of the dead were members of  armed resistance groups.

But the report issued by the B'Tselem organisation on Wednesday was broadly in line with those reports published by groups such as Amnesty International and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights after the war on Gaza ended in January.

B'Tselem found that 1,387 Palestinians were killed in the war, inlcuding 773 civilians, 330 combatants, 248 policemen and 36 people whom the group was unable to classify as combatants or non-combatants.

B'Tselem said there were 320 minors under the age of 18 among the civilian dead.

The Israeli military has said 1,166 Palestinians were killed during the offensive it dubbed Operation Cast Lead - 709 combatants, 295 civilians and 162 people whose status it was unable to clarify.

Army reaction

Colonel Avital Leibovich, an Israeli Army spokesperson, dismissed the new figures.

"B'Tselem sources as specified in its own report are based on blogs, and Palestinian websites, some of which belong to the military wing of Hamas. Now, these sources are not reliable sources.

"The process by which the intelligence in the Israeli Defence Forces has conducted the investigation was a very thorough one. It took over two months to complete this process ... we can clearly say that the majority of the casualties, 709, were Hamas," she told journalists.

But in a statement, B'Tselem said its researchers had visited Gaza homes to take witness testimony and collect documents to arrive at its casualty figures. It called on the Israeli government to initiate an independent investigation of the war.

"The extremely heavy civilian casualties and the massive damage to civilian property require serious introspection on the part of Israeli society," B'Tselem said.

The Israeli military has said it operated during the war in accordance with international law and had tried, as much as possible, to minimise civilian casualties.

In its mission statement, B'Tselem says it endeavours to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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