The lopsided death toll in the conflict in Gaza, which appears to be resuming following the conclusion of fruitless peace negotiations, has prompted many Western commentators to condemn Israel’s prosecution of that conflict. Even United States officials have urged Israel to observe even more “restraint,” well beyond the lengths the Israeli Defense Forces already go to in order to minimize civilian deaths.
Since the start of the conflict on August 6, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 1,843 Palestinians had died in this conflict, many of whom were civilians. 66 Israelis lost their lives in the fighting, and nearly all of them have been soldiers.
But a number of news organizations have been attempting to quantify the precise number of civilians killed over the course of the conflict in Gaza. An interesting result of one such investigation was to determine that young men of fighting age were disproportionately represented among the Palestinian dead.
An analysis by the New York Times looked at the names 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 legitimate targets, were the most underrepresented, making up 71% of the population and 33% of the known-age casualties.”
A similar investigation conducted by Al Jazeera came up with the same conclusion: young men in their 20s were vastly overrepresented in the Palestinian death toll.
An Israeli spokesman told BBC reporters that the United Nations’ figure is based on numbers provided by the Gaza health ministry which is operated by Hamas. “He said that part of the reason for the discrepancy between the figures was ‘when militants are brought to hospitals, they are brought in civilian clothing, obscuring terrorist affiliations,’” the BBC reported.
The implicit condemnation of Israel which so many news organizations allowed themselves to engage in now looks more than a little misguided. Perhaps the press should not have taken the United Nations and Hamas entirely at its word, considering their status as a U.S.-designated terrorist group and all.