analysisIsrael at War

Hamas’s ‘numbers warfare’

Has anyone in the media bothered to ask how it is that there are no reports from Palestinian sources, defined as “reliable,” about dead and wounded Hamas members?

Israeli troops operating in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Nov. 12, 2023. Credit: IDF.
Israeli troops operating in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Nov. 12, 2023. Credit: IDF.
Kobi Michael
Kobi Michael
Prof. Kobi Michael is a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University and editor-in-chief of Strategic Assessment.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health (PMH) in the Gaza Strip, like every institution in Gaza, is tightly controlled and operated by Hamas. The PMH reports several times daily the number of Palestinian casualties resulting from the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, currently in its fifth week. Of course, the PMH reports on Palestinian casualties with attribution exclusively to Israel Defense Forces strikes. Reports of Hamas casualties are noticeably absent from Hamas Health Ministry reporting. In fact, PMH reports omit both Hamas combatants’ deaths and injuries.

In short, five weeks after the outbreak of the war, neither the Hamas leadership nor the PMH have reported a single casualty among Hamas forces.

The international media is complicit in Hamas’s strategic numbers deception. The credibility that the media and the international community attribute to the PMH testifies to the depth of the bias and even hostility in the mainstream media’s global coverage of the war in Gaza. The problem reaches intolerable levels when it is well established that Hamas controls all government ministries and institutions in Gaza including the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the vast majority of whose employees are Hamas loyalists. This includes the chairman of the UNRWA employees’ organization, Dr. Sohail Alhindi, who is a member of Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip.

Therefore, any report by the PMH in the Gaza Strip, by definition, is a Hamas report. This points to Hamas’s strategy of perception warfare, which seeks to establish and shape the conflict around the image of Palestinian victimhood and externally imposed disaster via the media and the international diplomacy, civil society and international human rights groups that Hamas mobilizes and with which it actively cooperates to pressure the State of Israel to stop its defensive military operations.

Israel launched this counter-terror war to ensure the Jewish and democratic state’s very survival following the genocidal massacre of some 1,200 Israelis and others in southern Israel on Oct. 7 (commensurate with 60,000 Americans murdered in 24 hours). In addition, Hamas kidnapped more than 240 people, including infants and the elderly, and took them back to Gaza as hostages.

Against this backdrop, the starting point for evaluating the distorted and erroneous Hamas reporting of casualties is its pre-meditated mendacious report accusing Israel of bombing the al-Ahli Hospital in southern Gaza on Oct. 17. Minutes after the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s misfired rocket landed in the hospital parking lot, the PMH rushed to report the IDF as being responsible for bombing the hospital, claiming 100 deaths. In less than an hour, the death toll climbed to 500. To this day, the PMH (Hamas) has failed to correct the false report regarding the event, or to provide the actual casualty count.

It was later proven that the hospital was hit by a failed Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket, which landed in the hospital parking lot. Israeli and United States intelligence subsequently confirmed this fact, leading to a public statement from Jerusalem by U.S. President Joe Biden. It also became clear that the actual death toll probably did not exceed 40, a far cry from the 500 that the PMH had initially reported.

The lies go unchallenged

No major international media or community figure attempted to verify these and other false reports regarding the war. For example, no one questioned the PMH’s claim of 30,000 Palestinian wounded, despite the fact that the total number of hospital beds in all medical facilities in the Gaza Strip, including UNRWA clinics, did not exceed 3,000 optimally. So, where exactly are all these 30,000 wounded? It has been reported recently that some 90 wounded Gazans were transferred to Egypt. If the number of wounded is so high, why weren’t more wounded transferred to Egypt?

According to the PMH reports, there are already more than 13,000 Palestinians dead. On Nov. 5, the PMH reported 10,042 dead, and the next day, the number rose to 13,492. Did 3,000 people die in one day? And if that casualty figure is accurate, where were those killed buried?

Has anyone in the media and the international community bothered to ask or wonder how it is that there are no reports from Palestinian sources, defined as “reliable,” about dead and wounded Hamas members?

Who has inquired as to whether all of these journalists, human rights activists and international aid organizations have undertaken to check the age distribution of the thousands of children who have been reported dead and injured? According to the definitions of the United Nations and others, anyone under the age of 17 or 18 is categorized as a minor. However, a simple query on Google regarding Hamas’s military training for children and the recruitment of children by Hamas as terrorists generates tens of thousands of results, including thousands of videos, which illustrate, in the clearest way possible, how Hamas poisons the minds of children from preschool age, trains them in military training in summer camps and recruits young people aged 13-18.

Based on what was explained above and due to the zero reliability of Hamas and its strategic manipulations, we offer here an alternative analysis to help determine an objective measure of casualties in the Gaza Strip. The numerical basis for the proposed research starts from a low number of dead and wounded, which is about half of the number reported by Hamas, although with reference to the characteristics of the report on the number of casualties at al-Ahli Hospital, it is possible, and even with high certainty, to assume an even lower number.

At least half of the dead and wounded are probably Hamas members, whether armed terrorists or members of the Hamas establishment, who are legally considered terrorists for all intents and purposes because they are an integral part of Hamas’ governmental infrastructure. A significant number of the “children” reported as killed or wounded are young people aged 13-18, who were in Hamas facilities or even took an active part in the fighting. (Israeli Minister Ron Dermer, in an interview with Sky News, reported 3,000 Hamas members killed),

From the remaining number, a significant number of dead and injured resulting from failed rocket launches that landed short, such as the one that fell on the al-Ahli hospital, must be subtracted. IDF radar evidence shows that errant rockets comprise about 10% of the total rockets fired from Gaza (the percentage is higher for Islamic Jihad rockets). With almost 10,000 rockets fired since the beginning of the war, it must be assumed that nearly 1,000 fell in the Gaza Strip, short of their intended Israeli civilian targets.

From the remainder of the casualties, one must subtract all the citizens who fled the northern Gaza Strip for the safe zone in the south and who were killed by Hamas. At the same time, other Gazans were held hostage by Hamas’s refusal to allow civilian evacuation—using the Gazan public as human shields in civilian facilities. These civilian buildings, housing, schools and other public installations became Hamas military headquarters, launch sites and weapon depots populated by Hamas personnel. The sites thus became legitimate military objectives under international law.

The small balance of casualties is indeed composed of unarmed civilians who were regretfully and unintentionally killed by the IDF, which is characterized as “collateral damage.” But in terms of a comparative test for every war in the last hundred years, the collateral damage caused by IDF’s activities is low both relatively and in absolute numbers compared to other Western military campaigns. Particularly those of the U.K. and U.S. militaries, as noted by former Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and separately by Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan. This relatively low collateral damage is the result of Israel’s strict adherence to the international laws of war and the utmost efforts made by the IDF to convince the Gaza civilian population to evacuate battle zones while opening humanitarian corridors and securing safe civilian passage, as recent documentation confirms.

The bottom line is this: The Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip is fully controlled by Hamas, a barbaric Islamic terror organization whose charter calls for the mass murder of Jews. Its reliability and believability are not only questionable but nonexistent. Its strategic goal is to deceive the international public through both creating and exploiting a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and to distract from the real humanitarian crisis of the criminal kidnapping and holding of 241 Israeli and international hostages with the cynical goal of bringing international pressure on Israel to cease military operations to enable Hamas to ensure its survival.

The international community and media have not understood this Hamas deception strategy. Thus, we witness a world characterized by an inversion of moral order. In this brave new world punctuated by international support for Hamas’s mass murder of children, women, and the elderly while engaging in global deception regarding casualty reporting, Israel has no choice but to adhere to the righteousness of its cause. It’s a morally just way of war, in a war which Israel must win.

Originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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