A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

A numbers game

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 8, 2009

I ran across these figures at the very end of one of today’s New York Times stories about Gaza:

Casualty figures in the Gaza war are hard to verify, but officials at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City and the Gazan Ministry of Health said 683 Palestinians had died since the conflict began Dec. 27, including 218 children and 90 women. They said 3,085 had been wounded. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza said 130 children age 16 or under had died. The United Nations estimated a few days ago that a quarter of the dead were civilians.

But Palestinian residents and Israeli officials say that Hamas is tending its own wounded in separate medical centers, not in public hospitals, and that it is difficult to know the number of dead Hamas fighters, many of whom were not wearing uniforms.

Israel says it has killed at least 130 Hamas fighters. Ten Israelis have been killed during the offensive, including three civilians. Most of the seven dead Israeli soldiers were killed in so-called friendly fire.

Numbers are so interesting. If there are 683 dead in Gaza, and Israel says that it has killed at least 130 Hamas fighters, that means that 533 of the dead are likely to be civilians. That number almost certainly isn’t accurate, but its a far, far higher percentage of civilians killed than the 20% Israel estimated a few days ago.

And if there are 10 Israeli deaths, and only three of them are civilians, then that means that up to 178 Gazan civilians have died for every Israeli civilian. Why aren’t there 178 photos – or 100, or even 10 – of Gazan funerals for every photograph of an Israeli funeral?

No wonder these numbers were dumped at the end of this article.

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