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Israel military says 2 civilians killed for every Hamas militant is a ‘tremendously positive’ ratio given combat challenges

The AFP news agency first reported the Israeli assessment on Monday, citing a briefing for foreign media by senior Israeli military officials. Asked about reports that about 5,000 Hamas militants had been killed since October 7, one of the officials replied, according to AFP: “The numbers are more or less right.”

According to figures compiled by the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza, almost 16,000 people have died since October 7. The ministry’s figures don’t distinguish between combatants and civilians. Conricus’ statement implied that more than 10,000 civilians have died in the conflict.

Conricus added: “I can say that if that is true – and I think that our numbers will be corroborated – if you compare that ratio to any other conflict in urban terrain between a military and a terrorist organization using civilians as their human shields, and embedded in the civilian population, you will find that that ratio is tremendous, tremendously positive, and perhaps unique in the world.”

According to the AFP report, an unidentified Israeli official said that it was hoped the ratio will be “much lower” in the next phase of the war. “I’m not saying it’s not bad that we have a ratio of two to one,” the official was quoted as saying.

The IDF estimates that Hamas was comprised of around 30,000 fighters before October 7, when it launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, killing more than 1,200 people and taking more than 240 hostage. In response, Israel has vowed to eliminate the group once and for all.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told journalists during a press conference on Saturday that the military has killed “thousands of terrorists.” The Israeli military has not officially published any estimates of those killed.

AFP reported that the Israeli military official, when asked to confirm reports that around 5,000 Hamas militants had been killed, replied: “The numbers are more or less right.”

Conricus said the IDF aims ultimately to obtain accurate numbers of civilians and combatants killed, and said he thought the figures would be known before the end of the war.

He clarified the definition of Hamas militants, saying that when the Israeli military reported how many fighters it had killed, it was referring to combatants. “Our definition is combatants, people who are fighting,” he said. In Gaza, thousands of residents are employed in Hamas-run administrative agencies but carry out civilian duties.

More people have died in the current war than in any of Israel’s past conflicts with either Hamas or other Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip.

During the 50 days of hostilities in Gaza in 2014, 2,251 Palestinians were killed, of whom 1,462 were believed to be civilians, according to the United Nations. That equates to a ratio of 1.8 civilians for every non-civilian.

A top US State Department official told Congress last month that while it was difficult to assess casualty figures while conflict was ongoing, she believed that the true death toll could be even higher than what is being publicly discussed.

“It is very difficult for any of us to assess what the rate of casualties are,” said Barbara Leaf, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. “We think they’re very high, frankly. And it could be that they’re even higher than are being cited. We’ll know only after the guns fall silent.”

The US is piling pressure on Israel to limit civilian casualties as outrage about the death toll grows globally and at home in the US.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday emphasized that the protection of civilians in Gaza is crucial to Israel’s long-term success against Hamas.

“In this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population,” he said. “And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.”

Austin’s comments came the day after Israel resumed its combat operations against Hamas in Gaza.

Austin added that he has “personally pushed Israeli leaders to avoid civilian casualties” and “shun irresponsible rhetoric” while expanding access to humanitarian aid.

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