Number crunching

According to the Al-Jazeera Gaza Twitterbot, Hamas is reporting that 48 of its fighters were killed in the Gaza bombings and the subsequent invasion. 

According to Gaza Body Count, 1203 dead have been confirmed so far. Those 1203 are 98,93 % of the casualties, with the remaining 1.07 % - 13 dead - on the Israeli side. 

If that's true, then 3.99 %, almost 4 % of those killed on the Palestinian side were legitimate targets. The remaining 96 % were innocent bystanders. 

Or, well, "bystanders" is maybe the wrong word, seeing as how they were locked inside a territory they couldn't escape from. Maybe "terror victims" or "murder victims" are a better phrase.

Whatever we call them, I believe that percentage is far higher than most wars in the 20th century. I have top people getting the numbers now. In the meantime, let's suffice to say that there is no way that this can be adequately described as a war on Hamas aggression. Reading purely from the numbers, this was a war on Palestinian civilians which happened to hit some Hamas fighters. I'm sure you could pretty much carpet bomb Gaza and get the same percentage. I wonder if they were even aiming. 

Update: My top people. Well... Mikkel, actually, has gotten hold of the numbers. They're in comments.

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Blogger Mikkel said...

What do you mean, top people? Anyway, I can't find the exact numbers because someone seems to have "borrowed" my Hobsbawm.

It depends how you count, but the historical tendency is that the civilian to military death rate in war is rising sharply.

Not only are there more battles fought, there are more deaths in those battles, and more of those deaths are civilian deaths.

Number of battles engaged by principal European powers in each century:


Before the 1500s there weren't many civilian deaths to speak of, at least not in the sense that civilians were harmed in battle. The armies would simply take up position with empty ground between them and cry havoc.

With the advent of artillery, and later air power, that has changed.

During the Napoleonic wars (the first "popular" wars) the civilian
casualty rate was something like ten percent, I think.

WWI has something like a 30 percent civilian casualty rate, while WWII has something like a 60 percent civilian casualty rate.

Korea and Viet Nam are at about 75% each.

The numbers for the wars of Yugoslav secession are still a bit hazy, but an 80% civilian casualty rate is a good guess.

And now Gaza. With a 96% civilian casualty rate you can't really call it a war, can you? It's more like, hm, a kosher butchershop run by Adolf Eichmann?

January 19, 2009 2:35 pm  

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