On 15 November, the BBC reported Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asserting during a news conference,
There is no moral symmetry between Israel and the terrorists in Gaza. Hamas deliberately targets our children and they deliberately place their rockets next to their children. Now despite this reality - and it's a difficult reality - Israel will continue to do everything its power to avoid civilian casualties.
In the context of Israel's 2006 attack on Lebanon and the December 2008-January 2009 'Operation Cast Lead', I've already articulated my views on the issue of targeting noncombatants and using them as human shields. I have nothing new to say about the latter, but the time has come to examine the fate of civilians in Israel's latest assault on the densely packed Gaza Strip, 'Operation Pillar of Cloud (or Defence)'.
When it comes to counting casualties, everybody has an axe to grind. High numbers of casualties and high proportions of noncombatant casualties are evidence of the enemy's iniquity and provide perfect grist for the propaganda mill. So for the purpose of this analysis, I'm just going to take each 'side' at its word about their own casualties.
According to the Israeli Ministry ofForeign Affairs website, in the course of Operation Pillar of Cloud, between 14 and 21 November, there were a total of 245 Israeli casualties: '6 killed (4 civilians and 2 soldiers), 8 in critical condition, 9 in moderate condition and 222 lightly injured (figures of wounded include 20 soldiers)'.
Meanwhile, according to the PalestineCentre for Human Rights, there were a total of 1156 Palestinian casualties: 'Palestinian Deaths Rise to 156, Including 103 Civilians, and 1,000 Others, Including 971 Civilians, Wounded'
The absolute numbers are significant in and of themselves and it's therefore worth noting that in carefully targeting some 1500 'terrorist sites', Israel managed to inflict 1074 civilian casualties. Israeli sources claim that 1344 rockets were launched from Gaza, 429 of which were successfully intercepted by Iron Dome batteries. And these caused a total of 223 noncombatant casualties.
So one way of looking at it is that the vicious Hamas terrorists, who deliberately aimed mainly primitive, unguided rockets, at civilians, achieved a hit rate of 16.6%. In contrast, exercising the greatest care to avoid hitting noncombatants with their sophisticated, precision weapons, Israeli forces hit civilians 71.6% of the time.
Examined proportionally, 91% of the Israeli casualties were civilians, while 93% of the Palestinians killed and injured were noncombatants.
At the end of August, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics estimated the total population of Israel at 7 928 500, while the Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics estimated the population of the Gaza Strip for an unstated date in 2012 at 1 644 293. So the casualty rate among Israelis was 31 per million (0.003%) and among the population of Gaza the rate was 703 per million (0.07%).