Recent days have seen yet another round of fighting between Israel and Islamist militant groups in Gaza. The bombardment of Israeli cities by Palestinian rockets and the retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza by Israeli fighter jets have brought with them the usual tally of Palestinian fatalities kept by world news agencies and across social media, as though it’s all just some game in which score must be kept. Israeli air raids have “killed 34 Palestinians” read one article. “Palestinian officials reported 32 deaths” stated another. With the roughly three dozen Palestinian dead reduced to mere numbers, it doesn’t take long for the global chain of usual suspects to launch their own barrage on social media accusing Israel of “killing innocent people” or claiming that the dead were “murdered”, “slaughtered”, “butchered” or any other emotive, heart-wrenching verb that you can think of.
So in my quest to discover who exactly these Palestinian fatalities were, I turned to an unlikely source; Palestinian media. When surveying Palestinian sources, once you get past all the talk of ‘martyrs’ and the portrayal of Israel as the source of all evil and the Palestinians as the source of all that is pure and innocent, you find not just numbers of the fatalities, but also names and ages. And when you analyze those names and ages what you discover is that almost 80% of them are male and aged between 16 and 50. In short, they are men of fighting age. If Israel really is raining missiles indiscriminately into civilian areas in order to kill as many innocent people as possible, then how can it be that 4 out of 5 of all those killed by Israeli missiles just so happen to be from virtually the only section of the population likely to be engaged in combat?
The answer of course is that young men of fighting age are so extremely over-represented in the number of those killed by Israeli air strikes because far from targeting and ‘murdering’ innocent people, Israel is in fact targeting only those Islamic Jihad and Hamas militants – who are invariably likely to be male and aged somewhere between 16 and 50 – involved in the launching of rockets at Israeli population centers, and not innocent civilians.
This is, of course, not to suggest that innocent civilians were not among the dead – based on the information published by Gaza’s health ministry, it can be estimated that around 1 in 5 of those killed were non-combatants. The tragedy of all armed conflict is the loss of innocent life and because of how well Gaza’s military personnel and infrastructure are embedded within the civilian population, we will likely never know exact numbers. Yet when the large majority of those killed fit into a certain demographic, namely the demographic that is overwhelmingly most likely to belong to the armed wings of Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the claims that Israel’s military is purposely targeting innocent civilians, or “murdering” women and children in Gaza, cannot go unchallenged.
A list of the names and ages of those allegedly killed in Israeli airstrikes can be found here.