Flying pigs moment: BBC's chief statistician says caution needed with Gaza casualty figures
The Beeb - THE BEEB - is calling for caution
in dealing with Gaza casualty figures.
[I]f the Israeli attacks have been "indiscriminate", as the UN Human
Rights Council says, it is hard to work out why they have killed so many
more civilian men than women.
Matthias Behnk, from OHCHR, told BBC News that the organisation
would not want to speculate about why there had been so many adult male
casualties, adding that because they were having to deal with a lot of
casualties in a short time, they had "focused primarily on recording the
"As such, we have not at this stage conducted a detailed
analysis of trends of civilian casualties, for example in relation to
the reasons why different groups are affected and the types of
incidents, but hope to carry this out at some point in the coming
future," he said.
"However, even in the compiling of these preliminary figures,
we cross-verify between different sources, not only media and several
different human rights organisations, but also use other sources,
including, for example, names of alleged fighters released by the Israel
Defense Forces (IDF) and notices by armed groups in Gaza claiming
someone as a member."
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 IDF say they have killed at least 253 Hamas operatives,
147 Islamic Jihad operatives, 65 "operatives of various organisations"
and 603 "operatives whose affiliation is unknown", although they also
stress that this is not a final number.
Spokesman Capt Eytan Buchman told BBC News that "the UN
numbers being reported are, by and by large, based on the Gaza health
ministry, a Hamas-run organisation".
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".
"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 last Israeli ground offensive in December 2008-January 2009], Hamas
and Gaza-based organisations 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."
In conclusion, we do not yet know for sure how many of the
dead in Gaza are civilians and how many were fighters. This is in no
sense the fault of the UN employees collecting the figures - their
statistics are accompanied by caveats and described as preliminary and
subject to to revision.
But it does mean that some of the conclusions being drawn from them may be premature.
Maybe we'll even get a fair hearing this time? What could go wrong?
Labels: BBC, civilian casualties, Gaza, Hamas, human shields, IDF, Operation Protective Edge