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By The Numbers: Israel’s Campaign Demonstrates Incomprehensible Restraint

Data reveals Israel's prioritization of civilian protection amid challenging circumstances.

An Israeli army soldier puts on his helmet as he mans a turret in an armoured tracked vehicle deployed at a position along the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on October 31, 2023 amid ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas. Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images
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Editor's note: In this special edition, we present an exclusive article authored by Daniel Pomerantz, a resident of Tel Aviv and the CEO of RealityCheck Research, a nonprofit organization dedicated to clarifying complex global issues.

Israel has struck over 11,000 terror-related targets in Gaza since October 7, according to a report last Wednesday. In a separate report, the Gaza Ministry of Health claims that Israeli strikes have killed over 8,500 people in Gaza over the same period. Even if the Gaza Ministry of Health can be trusted (it cannot), that would mean that Israel has killed, on average, less than one person per strike and that over 20% of Israel’s strikes have killed no people at all.

For an army with firepower and accuracy capable of killing hundreds or even thousands in a single strike, these figures represent an absolutely astonishing degree of precision and restraint.

The Massacre Of October 7

Hamas, the US-designated terror organization that controls Gaza, perpetrated on October 7 the largest massacre of Jewish life since the Holocaust: including burning alive and beheading some 40 babies, raping hundreds of women, murdering over 1400 innocents, and kidnapping hundreds of hostages. Most of the (at least) 245 hostages still in captivity are civilians, many are women and elderly, and 30 are children and babies.

In an action reminiscent of America’s targeting of Al Qaeda after 9/11, Israel has responded with a military campaign, the stated goal of which is not only freeing the hostages but also ending the Hamas terror organization. 

As the campaign proceeds, there has been much discussion of how many civilian casualties have occurred on “both sides,” yet developing an accurate count is not as easy as it seems.

The Gaza Ministry Of Health Is Intentionally Misleading

The Gaza Ministry of Health, the sole source of information on Palestinian casualties, is not an independent health agency but merely an arm of Hamas: a terror organization designated on the same international lists as ISIS and Al Qaeda. An unusually frank report last week by the Associated Press revealed that “the [Gaza] ministry [of health] never distinguishes between civilians and combatants.”  The report further states that “The Health Ministry doesn’t report how Palestinians were killed, whether from Israeli airstrikes and artillery barrages or other means, like errant Palestinian rocket fire. It describes all casualties as victims of “Israeli aggression.”

This reality plays out in numerous real-world examples: for example, on October 17, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror organization fired a rocket that hit the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza, killing about ten people. Hamas immediately announced that Israel had struck the hospital, killing over 500, despite knowing this was not the case. This is just one example out of a long and well-established history of Hamas’ dishonest behavior.

Hamas Kills Palestinians

Hamas both endangers and directly kills Palestinian civilians itself before subsequently, and dishonestly, blaming the deaths on Israel. For example, last week, Israel released a mountain of evidence, including intercepted conversations by Hamas operatives, revealing that a major Hamas military headquarters is located inside Gaza’s Shifa hospital. Reports this week indicate that Hamas is firing on the civilian evacuation corridor established by Israel inside Gaza. Both of these acts result in the death of Palestinian civilians at the hands of Hamas - whether through direct attack or indirectly by using civilians as human shields - and all such deaths are included in Hamas’ unreliable figures.

An Accurate Figure

To arrive at an accurate figure of civilian casualties caused by Israel, one might start with Hamas' claim of 8,500 deaths, but one must then subtract from that figure: 1. Terrorist combatants, 2. Civilians that Hamas intentionally placed in harm’s way, and 3. Civilians that Hamas killed directly. Even after these adjustments, one would also have to discover and subtract those “deaths” that simply did not happen at all, such as the dishonest claim of 500 casualties at the Al-Ahli hospital.

Incomprehensible Restraint

If Israel were determined to act without restraint, it could likely accomplish its mission of destroying Hamas and protecting Israelis by bombing Gaza indiscriminately and thoroughly from air, sea, and long-range artillery in the style of the Allied attacks on Dresden and Berlin in World War II. Yet, as a rule, the Israel Defense Forces prohibits its forces from intentionally targeting civilians. Accordingly, Israel has sent in ground troops to act against military targets with a precision not possible from afar. Dozens of Israeli soldiers have already fallen in these operations, with many more likely to follow. Israelis have been holding painful funerals almost daily since the ground campaign began, with many of the dead no older than 20 or 21. It is, therefore, no exaggeration to say that Israelis are literally giving their lives to protect Palestinian civilians. Such an act is simply extraordinary in the history of human civilization.

Even if one were to accept Hamas’s exaggerated figure of 8,500 casualties, the math shows that each Israeli attack results in an average of between one and zero actual casualties. Given the horrific massacre of Israelis on October 7 and the enormous military machine that Israel is now tasked with destroying to prevent further such massacres, this degree of restraint is not only impressive, it’s barely even comprehensible.

Daniel Pomerantz is an expert in international law, a lecturer at Reichman and Bar Ilan Universities in Israel, and the CEO of RealityCheck, a nonprofit NGO dedicated to clarifying global conversations with verifiable data. Daniel lives in Tel Aviv, Israel, and can be found on Instagram at @danielspeaksup or at www.RealityCheckResearch.org.

Related Infographic: Israel-Hamas War Situation Report Day 28

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