Israeli officials seriously underestimated the number of Palestinian civilians killed in Operation Cast Lead, a Israeli human rights group has alleged.
A new report by B'Tselem found that 773 civilians, whose names it publishes today, were killed during the Israeli offensive in Gaza in January. B’Tselem says this includes 252 children and 109 women.
Israeli army figures put the civilian death toll at 209, with 89 children killed, but the figures did not include 245 Hamas policeman, whereas B’Tselem’s report counts policeman in its civilian figures.
Most of the policemen were killed after a direct hit on a police station.
B'Tselem fieldworkers inspected death certificates, photos, and testimonies and the organisation claimed to have carried out "months of meticulous investigation and cross-checks with numerous sources" while compiling its report.
A spokesman for B’Tselem said: "The extremely heavy civilian casualties and the massive damage to civilian property require serious introspection on the part of Israeli society."
Its report said Palestinians killed nine Israelis, including three civilians, while another four soldiers were killed by friendly fire.
But a report from the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Centre, dismissed some of B’Tselem’s claims.
Commenting on the number of children killed, a Herzliya researcher said: "The median age in Gaza is 17. Therefore, we could expect that among all the casualties, 50 per cent of casualties would be below this age and 50 per cent would be above this age. However, what we see in actuality is that 70 per cent of those killed were adults."
The Israeli army had no immediate comment on the report.