Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Civilian Casualties Rising in Gaza

In the early days of the Gaza War, Israel seemed to have done a reasonably good job of keeping "civilian" casualties low. (Civilians is in quotes, because it apparently does not include police cadets or various kinds of Hamas government workers, or the money changers targeted because they help finance Hamas activities, or University staff doing weapons related research, or ... see this BBC article for more details.)

Israel claimed that the number of civilians killed was 12%. The UN claimed it was 25%. That means there were between 50 and 125 civilians killed through last Saturday (out of a total of between 400 and 500 total Palestinian casualties.)

Yesterday, according to most reports, 100 Palestinians where killed. It seems more than half where civilians. CNN said "virtually all where civilians." Other reports say "20 children, and 30 women where among the 100 dead." And canoe.ca reports that "no militant casualties were seen Monday by a reporter visiting Shifa Hospital, the Gaza Strip's largest. Instead, the hospital was overwhelmed with civilians."

There are two obvious reasons for this change in the nature of the those killed.

First, in the early days of the war, Israel was striking "high value targets" based on good intelligence. It has, a few days ago already - and by the IDFs own admisssion - exhausted that target list. Now they are just fisshing.

Second is the ground offensive. And while you would think ground troops would aim carefully before they shoot, in fact, when attacked they just blanket the vicinity from which the attack came with fire. Also the IDF has used large amounts of artillary and tank fire to clear the way for incoming infantry.

So as the fighting gets into more urban areas, we can see the ratio of civilians to Hamas fighters killed rise.

This, combined with the fact that Americans and Canadians have now returned from Christmas break, will, I predict begin to move American and Canadian public opinion - already relatively weak on supporting Israel on this offensive.

* * *
Since I wrote the above - about 2 hours ago - the following was posted on the Haaretz web site: "40 Palestinians killed in IDF strike on UN school". All, according to the article civilians.

This is going to get uglier, before it ends.

I wrote on the third day of the war, that Israel had already accomplished whatever benefit it was going to derive from the war, and from then on the law of diminishing returns would kick in. It seems I was right.


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