ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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IDF officials: 2 civilian deaths for every 1 Hamas fighter killed in Gaza

IDF believes some 5,000 terrorists killed so far; says new high-tech mapping software should help to further reduce civilian casualties as war moves into crowded southern Gaza

Palestinians flee from Khan Younis to Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 4, 2023 (Mahmud Hams / AFP)
Palestinians flee from Khan Younis to Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 4, 2023 (Mahmud Hams / AFP)

Approximately two civilians have been killed for every dead Hamas fighter in the Gaza Strip, senior military officials said Monday, adding that the IDF was deploying high-tech mapping software to try to reduce noncombatant deaths.

Asked about media reports that 5,000 Hamas fighters had been killed, one of the senior officials told reporters at a briefing, “The numbers are more or less right.”

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says Israel’s military campaign, in response to the terror group’s murderous attacks on October 7, has killed around 15,900 people so far, most of them women and children. These figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both Hamas terrorists and civilians, and people killed as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. Hamas has never said how many of its members have been killed.

Israel launched an offensive aimed at destroying Hamas’s military and governance capabilities after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from Gaza, killing some 1,200 people and dragging over 240 hostages into Gaza. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — including babies, children and the elderly.

“I’m not saying it’s not bad that we have a ratio of two to one,” one of the senior officials at the briefing said, adding that the use of human shields was part of Hamas’s “core strategy.”

“Hopefully it [the ratio] will be much lower” in the coming phase of the war, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The rising death toll and unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza have sparked outrage in much of the world.

‘Consequences of war’

Key ally the United States has cautioned Israel to do more to avoid civilian casualties as operations shift to the south, where many Gazans are seeking refuge after fleeing the devastated north.

To that end, the officials said, the army is using high-tech mapping software to track population movements inside the Gaza Strip and issue evacuation orders.

Smoke rises following IDF strikes in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 4, 2023. (Said Khatib / AFP)

The system incorporates cellphone and other signals, aerial surveillance and word from local sources, as well as AI, to maintain a constantly updating map showing population concentrations across the territory.

Each of the map’s 623 cells are color-coded, with green designating areas where at least 75 percent of the population has evacuated.

“In the south, because we have basically doubled the population, operations are much more precise,” the official said.

“We are taking much more time to make sure our efforts [at warning civilians] are effective.”

The map — which the military says is the product of eight years of research and development — is available to commanders and units on the ground.

The map is used to coordinate efforts to warn civilians to leave certain areas ahead of impending strikes via SMS, phone calls, leaflet drops and other announcements, and to track the effectiveness of such messaging in real time.

It is similar to one made available online that the military says is intended to enable Gazans to “evacuate from specific places for their safety if required.”

A new interactive Gaza map issued by the IDF splits the Strip into hundreds of zones. The IDF said December 1, 2023, that it will be used to notify Palestinian civilians of active combat zones (screenshot)

But the United Nations humanitarian office OCHA has questioned the usefulness of such a tool in an area where access to telecommunications and electricity is sporadic.

On Monday night the main telecom company in the Gaza Strip said cellphone and internet service had been cut across the territory.

“I can assure you that we’re doing everything in our power to reduce civilian casualties,” the senior Israeli official said. “But this is part of the consequences of war.”

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