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Israel says Gaza death toll lower than claimed

  • Story Highlights
  • Israel: "Vast majority" of Palestinians killed in Gaza were "terror operatives"
  • Military says number of people killed less than Palestinian sources reported
  • Israel says 1,166 died, with 709 "identified as Hamas terror operatives"
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israeli Military said Thursday that the "vast majority" of Palestinians killed in the recent Gaza conflict were "terror operatives" and the number of people killed was less than Palestinian sources reported.

Israel says the majority of Palestinians killed during "Operation Cast Lead" were "terror operatives."

Israel says the majority of Palestinians killed during "Operation Cast Lead" were "terror operatives."

In an e-mailed statement the Israel Defense Forces spokesman's office claimed their figures contained the names of 1,166 Palestinians killed in the conflict, called "Operation Cast Lead."

The Israeli military said 709 of them were "identified as Hamas terror operatives, among them several from various other terror organizations."

The remaining, the statement claims, were comprised of 162 names who "have not yet been attributed to any organization."

"Furthermore, it has come to our understanding that 295 uninvolved Palestinians were killed during the operation, 89 of them under the age of 16, and 49 of them were women."

The Israeli military said it was releasing the findings to counter "false information originating from various Palestinian sources, and in order to remove any doubt regarding the number of Palestinians killed in Operation Cast Lead."

The numbers presented by the Israeli military differ sharply from those reported by Palestinian sources. At the conclusion of the fighting, the Hamas controlled Ministry of Health in Gaza had put the death toll at over 1,300, with the majority made up of non-combatants.

More recently the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) published a study that put the total death toll at 1,417, including 926 civilians of which 313 were children under the age of 18 and 116 women. It reports that the remainder was made of 255 "non-combatant" police officers and 236 who were took "an active part in hostilities."

Jaber Wishah, a deputy director for PCHR told CNN his organization "stands firmly on our published figures" and that Israel's choice to classify police officers as combatants is "illegal."

"Such classification constitutes a willful violation of the principle of 'distinction' which is a key component of customary international law. This raises serious doubts about the accuracy of the figures published by the Israelis," he said.

Wishah said the civilian death toll included "large numbers of deaths inside people's homes and other civilian facilities" and that it indicated "the extent to which civilians were intentionally targeted."

Wishah said that until the Israeli government produced the names and details on which its figures were based that he could not comment further.

The Israeli military has maintained that it went to great lengths to minimize civilian deaths and put the responsibility of civilian deaths on Hamas.

"The Hamas terror organization placed the primary fighting scene at the heart of civilian neighborhoods as it booby-trapped homes, fired from schools and used civilians as human shields," the IDF said.

Asked about the discrepancy in numbers, an Israeli military official suggested that natural occurring deaths in Gaza had been included in the Palestinian death toll numbers and that the total ratio of non-combatant to combatants killed was low.

A spokesman for the Israeli military said it could not immediately make the list of killed Palestinians available and could not offer more detail on methodology.

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