If Israeli attacks in Gaza have been “indiscriminate,” as the UN Human Rights Council says, why have they killed three times as many “civilian” men as women? Anthony Reuben, the head of Statistics for BBC News, points out ample reason to be skeptical of the civilian casualty numbers coming out of Gaza: most news organizations have been quoting from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which is providing Hamas-based statistics that defy credibility.
In its August 6 report, the OHCHR said that 1,843 Palestinians had been killed since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8. Of those, the UN body claimed, the status of 279 could not be identified, and at least 1,354 were civilians, including 415 children and 214 women.
That means 216 members of armed groups were killed, and another 725 men were civilians. If true, that means, among civilians, more than three times as many men were killed as women, while three times as many civilian men were killed as fighters.
To be fair, the UN report does carry a caveat that its figures are subject to change based on further verifications.
Nonetheless, if the Israeli attacks have, in fact, been indiscriminate, it is hard to explain why they have killed so many more civilian men than women.
A number of other news organizations have been considering the civilian-to-fighter ratio and are becoming skeptical.
An analysis by The New York Times examined the names and ages of 1,431 casualties and found that “the population most likely to be militants, men ages 20 to 29, is also the most overrepresented in the death toll. They are 9% of Gaza’s 1.7 million residents, but 34% of those killed whose ages were provided.”
“At the same time, women and children under 15, the least likely to be militants, were the most underrepresented, making up 71% of the population and 33% of the known-age casualties.”
The list of names and ages of the dead published by al-Jazeera also found men aged between 20 and 29 to be significantly overrepresented.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) say they have killed over 1,000 militants, although they stress that this is not a final number.
IDF spokesman, Capt. Eytan Buchman, explained to BBC News that the UN numbers being reported come from the Gaza Health Ministry, a Hamas-run organization.
He said that there is another reason for the discrepancy between the figures: “when militants are brought to hospitals, they are brought in civilian clothing, obscuring terrorist affiliations.”
“Hamas also has given local residents directives to obscure militant identities,” he said.
“It’s important to bear in mind that in Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Gaza ground offensive of December 2008-January 2009, Hamas and Gaza-based organizations claimed that only 50 combatants were killed, admitting years later the number was between 600-700, a figure nearly identical to the figure claimed by the IDF.”