01-23-2009, 03:29 PM
Direct Action Resistance Fighter
Joined: Aug 2006
Israel seizes on claims Gaza death toll has been exaggerated
Quote:The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera quoted Gazans claiming that less than 600 people had died in the 22-day attack, far fewer than the 1,300 reported by Palestinian health officials.
"It's possible that the death toll in Gaza was 500 or 600 at the most, mainly youths aged 17 to 23 who were enlisted by Hamas – who sent them to their deaths," the newspaper quoted a doctor at the main Shifa hospital as stating.
Other residents told the newspaper Hamas gunmen had used medical facilities to organise and co-ordinate attacks.
Israeli officials emailed the report around the world and a military officer condemned Hamas as "monstrous" in its use of civilians to cover its armed activities. "Entire families in Gaza lived on top of a barrel of explosives for months without knowing," said Brigadier Eyal Eisenberg.
Israel has not, however, formally disputed the widely published total but it points to the vast over-reporting of deaths during an incursion in the West Bank town of Jenin in 2002, when an estimate of more than 1,500 dead was revised to lower than 100.
International agencies do not dispute the Palestinian death toll, though no outside assessment has been completed. "The figures are good enough for us to quote at the moment but we clearly state where they come from," said Anne-Sophie Bonefield of the International Committee of the Red Cross. "We will for sure have to carry out independent verification."
The controversy arose as Israel debates the outcome of the 22-day Operation Cast Lead. At the resumption of campaigning for the country's general election next month, parties squabbled over credit for the Gaza campaign yesterday.
Polls show the chief beneficiary of the war was opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a hawkish ex-prime minister who promises to take a tough line against Hamas.
Political dividends from Operation Cast Lead for parties within the ruling coalition were mixed. The smaller Labour party of Ehud Barak, the defence minister, has recorded a bounce that has not offset a slump in the standing of Kadima, led by Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister.
The latest opinion poll released gave Mr Netanyahu's Likud 35 seats, up two and Miss Livni's Kadima 25, down two and Mr Barak's Labour 15, unchanged. It was the first double-digit lead for Mr Netanyahu over Kadima in the race for seats in the 120-member Knesset for weeks.
Pundits generally applaud Mr Barak's performance as defence minister in overseeing an operation that avoided the mistakes of Israel's disastrous offensive against Hizbollah in Lebanon in 2006.
But outgoing prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who stepped down from the Kadima leadership after corruption charges were pressed, yesterday issued a harsh critique of Mr Barak, who is also a former Israeli leader.
"He had a resounding failure as a prime minister, more than anyone else who has ever served in that capacity in the State of Israel's history," he told Maariv newspaper. "Because of lack of skill, lack of stability and lack of understanding in the management of state affairs, and I don't see that he has changed."
Stalwarts of Israel's peace camp have shifted into a vortex of despair at the hardening of the public mood. Veteran columnist Gideon Levy said Hamas was not weaker but had been boosted as the culture of resistance was strengthened in Gaza.
"So what was achieved after all," he wrote in Haaretz. "Likud chair Benjamin Netanyahu is getting stronger in the polls. And why? Because we could not get enough of the war."
The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall. - Che Guevara
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