Terror Operatives Accounted for 48% of Palestinians Killed During Israel-Hamas Clashes in Gaza: Report

Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike on a building, amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in Gaza City May 17, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Almost half of the Palestinians killed by Israeli airstrikes during last month’s clashes in the Gaza Strip were militant operatives mainly of the Hamas terror group and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), according to a report released on Tuesday.

The study, published by the Israel-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), analyzed the names and identities of 234 Palestinians it said were killed in the Gaza Strip by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strikes. The report said that in the absence of a reliable list of those killed, it identified them based on death notices by various Palestinian sources, including Hamas, non-governmental organizations, social media posts, and Arab channels.

The analysis of the names found that at least 112, or 48%, of the casualties were militant operatives in the terrorist organizations, mainly members of the military wings of Hamas and the PIJ. According to the analysts of the report, 680 errant rockets fired at Israel by the Hamas, but which fell inside the Gaza Strip, killed at least an additional 21 Palestinians — including 10 men, two women and nine children, as well as a Hamas operative, a PIJ operative, and a Fatah operative.

“As in previous operations and this time even more, sources in the Gaza Strip (the Ministry of Health and terrorist organizations) rarely publicly comment on the deaths of terrorist operatives. That’s with the exception of senior operatives whose deaths were published by official announcements on behalf of the organizations to which they belonged,” the report found. “The Hamas administration is trying to create a false impression that the vast majority of those killed were non-involved civilians. On social media and other media channels a large number of the killed terrorists were identified as ‘civilians’ for the same reason.”

Additionally, the ITIC report emphasized that the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza stressed in its announcements that it publishes the number of women, children and the elderly who were killed, but in contrast to the past, it did not publish detailed lists that include the names of those killed.

The report also pointed to the discrepancy about the exact numbers of those killed during last month’s clashes. According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, the death toll was 256; Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa published a list of 257 Palestinians killed during the operation; the Al Meza Center for Human Rights reported 248 deaths; and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights put the number at 247.

Israel and Hamas agreed to a bilateral ceasefire on May 21, which put an end to 11 days of rocket fire and violence. During the operation, named Guardian of the Walls, about 4,360 rockets were fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, with 680 of them falling within Gaza. In response, Israel struck a total of 1,500 military targets, including 340 rocket launchers and destroyed more than 60 miles of underground terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip.

The report found that out of the 112 killed militant operatives, 63 were Hamas fighters, 20 were PIJ operatives, 25 were Fatah activists, two were Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) operatives, one was an operative in the Mujahadeen battalions and one was a Popular Resistance Committee operative.

The group’s breakdown of the casualties killed in Israeli airstrikes listed 52 children, 38 women and five adults aged 70 and older. The Al Meza Center for Human Rights and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported 66 children and 39 women among the casualties, while the Defense for Children International – Palestine listed 67 children.

“Some of them were killed because they were located near an attack of the terrorist operatives or they were close to a military target which was hit. Many of them were relatives of terrorist operatives,” according to the report’s findings. “Some of them were unintentionally injured when terrorist targets were attacked, as a result of the Hamas placing terrorist targets near or under civilian structures.”

The most notable case was the collapse of two buildings under which Hamas built its terrorist tunnel, it was added in the report. The ITIC made reference to an Al-Jazeera report from June 5, according to which Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar admitted during a meeting with academics following last month’s hostilities that the terror group’s military headquarters were located within civilian population, and that the organization was aware that it was a problem.

Gender analysis found that out of a total 260 killed Palestinians during the Gaza hostilities — including both those killed in IDF strikes, by errant militant group rockets, and otherwise — 153 were men (10 of whom were killed as a result of failed rocket launches), 41 were women and 62 were children up to the age of 16, of whom nine were killed as a result of errant rocket fire. The identity of the remaining four casualties are unknown, according to the ITIC report.

The ITIC noted that as of now the number of casualties is still not final and there may be other fatalities that have not yet been identified or have not yet been rescued.

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Author: Sharon Wrobel

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