For the last 23 months, Israel and the Palestinian Arabs have been engaged in a “low-intensity conflict” generally referred to as the “al-Aqsa Intifada”. This conflict has caused over 2,200 deaths so far; and yet, its most significant aspect seems to be the struggle for international public opinion rather than any effort at gaining a conventional military victory. New reports of death and injury appear almost daily in the world’s news media, generally accompanied by the current tally of the total number of people killed on each side. Pundits and laymen read these reports and draw conclusions from the simplistic statistics they convey.
Before many months of this conflict had passed, it became apparent to some observers that the “fatality scorecard” commonly included in coverage of the al-Aqsa conflict was painting an oversimplified and deceptive picture of a complex reality. A more thorough accounting and analysis of the conflict’s incidents and casualties should enable a better understanding of the true nature of the conflict. Accordingly, the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) launched the Al-Aqsa Casualties Database Project to provide such an accounting.
The word “intifada” is properly translated as “uprising”. The use of either of these terms implies a judgement as to the nature of the conflict – specifically that, like the earlier Intifada of 1987-1991, this “intifada” is a spontaneous and authentic expression of “popular rage at Israeli occupation”. Some supporters of Israel, realizing the political significance of the common, often unthinking use of such terms, have attempted to substitute other names for the conflict, such as “the Oslo War”. None of these alternative names has gained general currency.
As this study aims to investigate the true nature of the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it seems most appropriate to avoid the use of all such value-laden terms. Accordingly, we decided to use the more neutral and general term “al-Aqsa conflict” to describe the events which began in September 2000. Even this usage can be criticized, in that it suggests some specific causal connection between the conflict and the al-Aqsa Mosque; but it seems to be a useful compromise.
It has been pointed out that readers of this study may be misled by the fact that various graphs are shown with differing scales. According to this critique, some readers may receive a visual impression that minimizes Palestinian fatalities relative to Israeli ones. We have made no attempt to mislead the reader in this way. If all graphs in this study were displayed using a uniform scale, many of them would be difficult or impossible to interpret; thus we have chosen a scale for each graph that best conveys the point made by that graph. Lacking a better solution to the problems of visually conveying numeric information, we can only ask that the reader A) note the numeric scale indicated next to the vertical axis of each graph; and B) remember that when we suggest comparisons be made between two different graphs, the intended comparison is generally one of “shape” rather than “size”. In all cases, the accompanying text should clarify any ambiguities.
Our research and analysis shows that the al-Aqsa conflict is different in many respects from what it is generally believed to be. Among our findings are the following:
Graph 1.2 shows the gradually increasing number of noncombatant fatalities each side has suffered at the other's hands, along with the “noncombatant gap” – the number by which Israeli killing of Palestinian noncombatants exceeds Palestinian killing of Israeli noncombatants. It is worth noting that this “noncombatant gap” rose quickly in the first few months of the conflict, and has remained within a narrow range since then.
The proportion of combatants among Palestinians killed has increased significantly over time, from around 40 percent to its current value of 54 percent. (It is also worth noting that the figure for Palestinian noncombatants includes a large number of fatalities for which combatant status could not be determined – see “Combatants and Noncombatants”, below.)
As Graph 1.3 shows, the “combatant gap” – that is, the “excess” of Palestinian combatants killed by Israel over Israeli combatants killed by Palestinians – has continued to grow over the life of the conflict. Contrast this with the “noncombatant gap” in Graph 1.2.
If we restrict our view to each side's noncombatants killed by the opposing side, the gap in the percentage of females among those killed is even wider: 40 percent of Israeli noncombatants killed by Palestinians have been female, compared to 8.4 percent of Palestinian noncombatants killed by Israel (see Graph 1.6). The latter figure represents a slight increase from its previous levels, due to the several women and girls killed in July's Israeli “targeted killing” in Gaza.
Restricting ourselves to cases where clear responsibility can be reliably assigned for noncombatant deaths, we see that Israel has been responsible for killing 52 Palestinian noncombatant females, while Palestinians have killed 187 Israeli noncombatant females – more than three times as many (see Graph 1.8).
In absolute terms, nearly three times as many Israeli noncombatants aged 45 and over have been killed as Palestinian noncombatants 45 and over (see Graph 1.10). Israelis have killed 55 noncombatant “mature” Palestinians, while Palestinians have killed 148 “mature” Israeli noncombatants.
The greatest care and effort in carrying out this project has been spent in gathering and evaluating enough information on each fatal incident to enable accurate classification of each claimed fatality. Reliable and detailed data on Israeli casualties of the al-Aqsa conflict has been relatively easy to find, as this information is extensively reported in Israeli and foreign newspapers, as well as various official and unofficial websites. Palestinian Arab fatalities present much greater difficulty, for several reasons:
We have made extensive use of mainstream media outlets, both in Israel and abroad, for the details of al-Aqsa conflict incidents. Information on Palestinian casualties has been gathered from Arabic-language newspapers, cross-correlated with reports from human-rights organizations in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately, these sources generally disagree on many significant details, including the name, age, and circumstances of death of victims. It should be noted that, since no Israeli official body has been keeping records of Israeli actions and their results, the information reported by the Western media has come almost exclusively from Palestinian sources.
In order to provide a better understanding of the nature and significance of al-Aqsa conflict incidents and casualties, we have classified them according to several criteria. This classification system is a reflection of our desire to improve upon the usual reportage, which – to give an extreme example – treats the death of a suicide bomber as equivalent to the death of one of his victims. A good system of classification, combined with carefully-gathered data, provides rich opportunities for analysis.
As the conclusions reached in this study are strongly influenced by the categories we have chosen for our analysis, it is important to understand these categories in some detail.
Confidence levels are as follows:
Note that Side Responsible in this study refers to physical responsibility only, and does not indicate a moral judgement.
As with Side Responsible for Incident, Side Responsible for Casualtyrepresents only the physical responsibility for causing death or injury, and expresses no judgement as to the appropriateness of that action.
Mere possession of a weapon does not imply combatant status. A civilian driving with a weapon in his/her car, or a pedestrian with a holstered pistol, is normally considered a noncombatant. However, a civilian who encounters a terror attack in progress and draws his/her weapon in an attempt to stop or prevent the attack is a combatant once the weapon is out of its holster.
Media reports frequently discuss the fatalities of the al-Aqsa conflict in terms of the number of “civilian fatalities” on each side. We have deliberately avoided this usage. In any conflict between a country with conventionally-organized military and police forces and an opposing force mostly composed of non-uniformed “irregulars”, the uniformed forces cannot avoid killing a disproportionate number of “civilians” – since even their most deadly opponents are usually not members of an official military, and in many cases have perfectly respectable “day jobs”.
In the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the distinction between Palestinian “civilians” and members of the plethora of official Palestinian Authority security forces is even harder to make, since many Palestinian policemen (and members of the other P.A. uniformed forces) combine their official service with membership in one or more unofficial groups such as Hamas or the various arms of Fatah. When Palestinians in this situation have killed Israeli noncombatants, they have generally done so in their “civilian” capacity.
At first glance, it should be easier to determine which Israeli fatalities are “civilians”. However, even here the distinction between “civilians” and members of official security forces paints a somewhat distorted picture. A substantial number of Israeli fatalities, especially those killed inside “Israel proper”, have been members of the civil police, or noncombatant members of the Israel Defense Forces – such as office workers and mechanics.
As a result of all these factors, dividing this conflict's fatalities into “civilians” and “non-civilians” over-emphasizes the “civilian” status of many of the Palestinian victims, and to a degree distorts the significance of Israeli fatalities as well. At best, such categorization paints an inaccurate picture of the conflict; and in some instances, those who use these categories are clearly being disingenuous. (As an extreme example, one report in a Saudi newspaper contrasted some 1,400 Palestinian “civilians” killed with about 530 Israeli “soldiers and settlers”.)
For this reason, we chose to classify those killed by their actual combatant status, according to the criteria laid out in the “Combatant Level” section above. While this method requires a degree of judgement in categorizing those killed, it offers some hope of making sense of an assymmetrical conflict; whereas the alternative system, while easier to apply, cannot provide meaningful results.
The first impression conveyed by the standard “Intifada body count” report is that people on both sides of the conflict have been getting killed at a more or less steady pace, with Palestinian fatalities outnumbering Israeli fatalities by a factor of almost three to one. A glance at Graphs 2.1 and 2.2 quickly dispels this illusion.
These graphs display all Israeli and Palestinian fatalities month-by-month, with no categorization or qualification. They show that Israeli casualties have varied widely from one month to the next, but have shown a general upward trend. (This trend is somewhat masked by the especially high death toll of March 2002, which “flattens” the rest of the graph.) Palestinian fatalities, on the other hand, were very high for the first few months of the conflict, then remained at a lower level – although still generally above the level of Israeli casualties. They increased again starting in September 2001 – possibly as a result of new, more aggressive Israeli counter-terrorism tactics adopted after the September 11 terror attacks on the United States. Large numbers of Palestinians were killed in March and April 2002, in the course of Israel’s “Operation Protective Shield” incursions into Palestinian-Authority-ruled cities; this operation was a response to a rash of major Palestinian terror attacks.
In order to show these trends more clearly, it is helpful to correct (or “normalize”) for the fact that the al-Aqsa conflict began on 27 September 2000* – so that the first “month” shown on our graphs is in fact only four days long. By multiplying by 30/4, we can correctly display a value corresponding to the rate at which people were being killed during these first four days. Graphs 2.3 and 2.4 show this correction, as well as trend-lines to clarify the changes in the rates of death.
* Note that we consider the beginning of the “al-Aqsa Intifada” to have been on 27 September 2000, the date of the first Palestinian attack on Israelis carried out by official Palestinian Authority personnel.
While the monthly number of Israeli fatalities is rather chaotic, there has clearly been an upward trend in the fatalities during both “good” and “bad” months (that is, higher peaks and higher troughs in the graph), especially since December 2000 – January 2001. Palestinian fatalities, on the other hand, trended downward from a very high beginning, then picked up somewhat from September 2001 onwards – although they did not approach the levels of the first months of the conflict until March 2002.
Graph 2.5 compares these overall trends in fatalities suffered by the two sides. While it is evident that the overall level of Israeli fatalities has been consistently lower than that of Palestinian fatalities, the gap between the trend-lines lessened over the first few months of the al-Aqsa conflict and then remained roughly steady until September 2001. Since then, the gap between fatalities incurred by the two sides has been fluctuating erratically.
So far we have looked only at overall fatality figures, without regard to any difference between one fatality and another. There are several ways in which we can refine our view. One obvious approach is to classify fatalities by which side caused them, rather than by the nationality of the deceased. By counting the people killed by the actions of each side rather than simply those who died on each side, we now classify suicide bombers and people killed while preparing explosives (“work accidents”) as part of their own side’s tally of deaths, rather than as apparent victims of the other side. (Killings of foreign nationals are also included in this classification; almost all of these have been foreigners working in Israel who were killed by Palestinian terrorist attacks.) Graph 2.6 shows the trends in deaths caused by each side, ignoring cases in which responsibility for death was unclear.
While the general appearance of this graph is similar to what we have seen before, it is significant that when we make these adjustments, the figures for fatalities caused by each side were actually quite similar, on average, for all but a few months after January 2001. (Note that, as mentioned above, selecting fatalities by the side “responsible” for them does not imply that the responsible side is at fault; “responsible” in this context refers only to physical rather than moral responsibility.)
Our view can be refined still further (in the sense of selecting those deaths which are “politically significant”) by ignoring the deaths of combatants. This eliminates from consideration those killed who were actively involved in the fighting, and thus legitimate targets for attack: soldiers at their posts, active members of terrorist groups, suicide bombers, and so on. Those remaining – even though many of them, such as stone-throwing protestors, may have knowingly put themselves in harm’s way – are considered “noncombatants”. (Note that for our purposes, “Violent Protestors”, “Probable Combatants”, and “Full Combatants” are treated as combatants; all other classifications, including “Unknowns”, are considered noncombatants.)
Noncombatant status is significant in several ways:
Graph 2.7 shows the trends in noncombatant deaths inflicted by each side on "non-nationals" – i.e. citizens of the opposing side and third-country citizens. This graph shows the same general trends as Graph 2.6, although (as Palestinian combatant fatalities are no longer included) the vertical scale is somewhat lower. Also, this graph shows even more clearly the trend for a rough parity between the two sides after December 2000.
Graphs 2.5, 2.6, and 2.7 suggest that the al-Aqsa conflict, up to late July 2002, can be divided into four phases:
The first phase of the al-Aqsa conflict began on 27 September 2000, and ended in late December 2000. At that time Palestinian fatalities tapered off sharply, and remained generally lower until the next September. December 21, 2000 has been chosen as the last day of this first phase. As a first approximation, we can label this phase of the conflict the “real or apparent popular uprising” phase (leaving room for uncertainty as to whether this “uprising” was genuinely spontaneous, or was manufactured by Palestinian leaders), as most of the fatalities appear to have occurred as the result of Palestinian mass demonstrations or riots, and the Israeli response to them. (A more detailed breakdown of these fatalities by Incident Type remains to be done.)
The second phase began on 22 December 2000, and lasted until September 2001. It was characterized by rough parity between the two sides when fatalities are measured either by responsibility or by noncombatant status. It also featured a general rising trend in Israeli fatalities, as well as in deaths to both sides caused by Palestinians. A final date of 11 September 2001 has been chosen for this period, because changes in Israeli policy and tactics resulting from that day’s terror attacks on the United States appear to have ushered in the next phase.
The third phase of the al-Aqsa conflict began on 12 September 2001 – again, a date chosen somewhat arbitrarily, as the first day “post 9/11”. This phase began with a significant increase in Palestinian fatalities, in contrast to the preceding period of rough parity between the two sides in noncombatant fatalities suffered and fatalities caused. Over the course of this phase, fatalities on both sides fluctuated dramatically from month to month, with Palestinian and Israeli trends rather closely correlated. The nine months of this phase saw attempts to impose cease-fires, which sometimes resulted in brief periods of relative quiet; visits to the region by foreign “peace envoys”, which often resulted in flare-ups of violence; and Israeli incursions into Palestinian Authority-controlled territory, which caused temporary reductions in successful terrorist attacks but achieved no long-term results.
The fourth phase of the conflict began with Israel's longer-term re-occupation of major Palestinian towns in the West Bank, around 21 June 2002. Two months into this phase, it appears that the Israeli presence in and around Palestinian towns is reducing the level of success in carrying out terror attacks against Israelis, if not the Palestinians' motivation to do so.
Graph 2.8 displays the overall rates of noncombatant deaths inflicted on each side by the other. It is very clear that since the end of Phase 1 of the conflict, Israeli and Palestinian noncombatant death rates have been almost identical.
More work remains to be done in order to match the trends of fatalities with corresponding developments on the political scene. However, one can already point to several significant points: for example, a dip in Israeli fatalities in July 2001 (as a result of international pressure on the Palestinians after the June 2001 Dolphinarium attack); and sharp dips in both Palestinian and Israeli casualties in January 2002. The latter decrease in casualties corresponds to Yasser Arafat’s “cease-fire calls” to his own side on 16 December 2001.
Further sections will explore other aspects of the phases of the al-Aqsa conflict in more detail.
As noted above, the classification of victims into combatants and noncombatants is important in evaluating both their tactical and political significance. It is worthwhile to examine this classification in more detail.
Graphs 2.9 shows the distribution of Palestinian fatalities among Combatant Level categories.
Note that a substantial portion – almost 55 per cent – of Palestinian fatalities are either Full Combatants, Probable Combatants, or Violent Protestors. Of the remaining fatalities, a substantial slice are classified as “Unknown”, meaning that their Combatant Level has not yet been determined. Ongoing review of existing reports, as well as addition data to be gathered, will, we hope, reduce the number of Unknowns.
Graph 2.10 shows the equivalent distribution for Israeli fatalities. The most obvious feature of this graph is the overwhelming preponderance of noncombatants over combatants. According to our practice of classifying only Full Combatants, Probable Combatants, and Violent Protestors as combatants, about one in five Israeli fatalities have been combatants. Even were we to include such categories as civil police and soldiers aboard civilian buses (i.e. Uniformed Noncombatants) among combatants, some 70 per cent of Israelis killed have been noncombatants.
The apparent reason for the lopsided distribution of Israeli fatalities is that Israeli combatants are members of a well-trained and equipped modern army – and more specifically, one that goes to unusual lengths to minimize its casualties. This has two implications: first, that Palestinians will generally prefer to attack civilian targets, or alternatively members of the military who are not on active duty; and second, that most Palestinian attacks on Israeli military patrols or outposts are unlikely to cause extensive Israeli fatalities.
Graph 2.11 shows trends in the balance of Palestinian fatalities between combatants and noncombatants, month by month. Note that Phase 1 and the first month of Phase 3 are both characterized by surges in noncombatant deaths, while most other periods show either parity between combatants and noncombatants, or else a preponderance of combatant deaths.
Graph 2.12 shows the trend in Palestinian fatalities caused by Palestinian actions – including suicide bombings, “work accidents”, internecine struggles, and so on.
The strong upward trend in Palestinian fatalities due to Palestinian actions suggests several possible explanations: increased suicide bombings, occasional clashes brought on by efforts by Palestinian Authority security forces to exert its authority over the various Islamist groups, and a general breakdown in law and order in Palestinian areas. The large “spike” in Palestinian noncombatants killed by Palestinians in April 2002 appears to represent the large number of “collaborators” killed in the aftermath to Israel’s “Defensive Shield” operation.
Graph 2.13 is the Israeli equivalent to Graph 2.11, showing Israeli combatant versus noncombatant fatalities.
The preponderance of noncombatant over combatant casualties is immediately obvious. The irregular but generally increasing trend in Israeli noncombatant fatalities is also apparent, along with the gradual increase in Israeli combatant fatalities since the beginning of 2002, leading up to the substantial losses suffered during Operation Protective Shield. (Note also December 2001, which included several major Palestinian terrorist attacks perpetrated during American envoy Anthony Zinni’s visit to the area.) As we saw above, the extremely high number of Israeli noncombatants killed in March 2002 "flattens" the rest of the graph, making the overall increasing trend appear less significant than it otherwise would.
Finally, Graph 2.14 analyzes the relationship between each month's Palestinian combatant and noncombatant fatalities over time. (Compare this to Graph 1.4, which shows the cumulative trend rather than each month's ratio individually.)
The pronounced increase over time in the percentage of combatants among Palestinian fatalities appears to result from a combination of several possible factors:
At the same time, note that the major incursions of Israeli forces into Palestinian Authority-controlled areas in September 2001 and March-April 2002, as well as Israel's July 2002 “targeted killing” in Gaza, resulted in significant “dips” in the monthly ratio of combatants killed. Graph 1.4 shows that these “dips” represented a pause in a long-term trend, rather than any reversal of that trend.
The issue of gender has not been widely discussed in relation to the al-Aqsa conflict. Investigation of the sexual composition of fatalities on both sides of the al-Aqsa conflict reveals some striking facts.
Graph 2.15 shows Israeli fatalities month by month, with male victims separated from female victims. While there is an overall preponderance of male Israelis killed (slightly over two thirds of the victims were male), the pattern is not consistent – there were some months when females outnumbered males among the victims – or extreme. As will be seen below in the section dealing with Age Distribution, the “excess” of males is not consistent across ages; fatalities among young people and the elderly are evenly balanced between the sexes.
Graph 2.16, displaying the equivalent data for Palestinians, shows a dramatically different picture. Palestinian fatalities in this conflict have been consistently and overwhelmingly male. In total, Palestinian women account for fewer than five percent of all Palestinians killed.
To eliminate any possible distortion caused by including combatants – almost all of them male, on both sides of the conflict – in our picture, we can generate similar graphs illustrating the proportion of males and females among the noncombatants on each side who were killed by the other side. Graphs 2.17 and 2.18 show that even when we restrict ourselves to the noncombatant victims of the conflict, almost all the Palestinians killed have been male.
Graph 2.19 reveals a related fact that has received scant media attention: If we look only at females killed, Israeli fatalities have far outnumbered Palestinian fatalities. This graph includes only each side's noncombatant females killed by the opposite side; but even if we include Palestinian combatant females and others whose death is not reliably attributable to Israeli actions, the ratio of Israeli females killed to Palestinian females killed is 2.7 to 1. (Using the more stringent criteria of noncombatants killed by the opposite side, the ratio is 3.6 to one.)
Yet another area that has received inadequate attention is the age distribution of victims of the al-Aqsa conflict. Again, analysis of the data yields some surprises.
Graph 2.20 shows the age distribution of Palestinian female noncombatants killed by Israel. Note that this graph displays no strong trend – the distribution of deaths across age categories appears essentially random.
This graph is included mainly to provide a contrast to those that follow.
Graph 2.21, on the other hand, showing Palestinian noncombatant fatalities of both sexes (which, as we’ve seen before, consist almost entirely of males), displays a highly non-random age distribution.
The median age for Palestinian victims is roughly 23; some 37% of them were under twenty years old, and 72% under thirty. The most striking features of the graph, however, are the dramatically high number of teenage noncombatants killed, and the almost perfect “textbook” skewed distribution.
Graph 2.22 shows the age distribution of Palestinian combatant fatalities. Again, this graph shows a highly non-random distribution – but with significant differences from Graph 2.21. Palestinian combatant deaths are even more concentrated in a small age-range than Palestinian noncombatant deaths are, and combatants on average were somewhat older than noncombatants.
Teenagers are much less prevalent among Palestinian combatant fatalities than among noncombatants; only around 18% of all Palestinian combatants killed were under twenty years old. (This reflects, to a minor degree, the fact that as a matter of principle we have classified essentially all Palestinians under the age of 13 as non-combatants.) The median age for Palestinian combatants is about 24 years. On the other hand, around 80% of the Palestinian combatants killed were under thirty – a slightly higher percentage of under-age-thirty deaths than among Palestinian noncombatants.
The distribution of Palestinian fatalities across age and gender demonstrates a simple but important fact: Palestinians killed in the al-Aqsa conflict have been overwhelmingly male, and for the most part teenaged or in their twenties. (Note, though, that the number of children killed under the age of ten is very low – under five percent of noncombatants.) This is highly significant, as it is very different from the results one would expect from random Israeli fire into inhabited neighborhoods, or other forms of indiscriminate killing of which Israel has been accused.
These graphs suggest that even the noncombatants among the Palestinians killed in this conflict were not, for the most part, passive victims of Israeli aggression. It appears that there was a strong element of self-selection among those who would eventually be killed – in short, teenagers and young men decided, or were encouraged, to confront Israeli forces and, all too often, “achieve martyrdom”. In this context, it is unsurprising that this element of self-selection – showing up as a more “focused” distribution – is even stronger for Palestinian combatants.
Graph 2.23 and 2.24 provide separate age breakdowns for males and females, for Israeli noncombatants killed by Palestinians, and Palestinian noncombatants killed by Israel. The Israeli fatalities, both male and female, display patterns consistent with a population subject to terror attack – an essentially random distribution, with a slight prevalence of males among ages when adults are more likely to be “out and about”. (It is interesting to note that female deaths are roughly equal to male deaths for ages below 20 and above 59; the lower number of female deaths between the ages of 20 and 59 presumably reflects more time spent indoors.)
The Palestinian pattern is very different. Palestinian female noncombatants (as more easily seen in Graph 2.20, above) show a fairly random age distribution; but Palestinian male noncombatants display an age distribution completely unlike that of any of the other noncombatant groups. It is apparent from these graphs that the Israeli killing of Palestinian noncombatant males is a very different phenomenon from the killing of other noncombatants in this conflict.
Graph 2.25 shows another interesting aspect of the age distribution of Palestinian fatalities. Here noncombatant Palestinians killed by Israel have been divided up according to the al-Aqsa conflict phases described above.
In order to make accurate comparisons among phases of different lengths, the data has been “normalized” into deaths per 30-day month. When the data is graphed in this way, several things become apparent:
The above observations imply that Phase 2 differed from Phase 1 (at least in terms of the death of Palestinian noncombatants) primarily in intensity. Phase 3, on the other hand, saw a significant difference in the ages at which noncombatants were killed – implying that these deaths were due to tactical changes on one or both sides of the conflict. One significant factor in this change may be Israel’s series of incursions into Palestinian Authority territory during Phase 3. Phase 4 shows yet another significantly different pattern – implying that “intifada-type” incidents account for a lower proportion of the noncombatant deaths in this phase.
Graphs 2.26A and 2.26B show total Israeli noncombatant fatalities for each phase of the al-Aqsa conflict. (Two separate graphs are shown here for readability; combining them as was done to create Graph 2.24 resulted in a graph that was colorful but extremely difficult to interpret.)
Four facts are immediately apparent:
Phase 1 shows almost all casualties (the sole exception is one person aged between 60 and 64) between 15 and 44 years old. The fact that almost all Phase 1 Israeli deaths took place within these ages – a very different pattern than is seen for later phases of the conflict – suggests that the incidents resulting in these fatalities were different from those that came later. (This should be clarified by future analysis of fatalities by Incident Type.)
Phases 2 and 3 show that Israeli teenagers were killed more than any other age bracket. This high number of teenaged fatalities may be the result of suicide bombings, many of which targeted groups of young people. Again, it is hoped that analysis by Incident Type will clarify this issue.
Phases 2 and 3 show a considerable number of fatalities among people aged 40 and over. The general pattern of death among Israeli noncombatants appears to be much more random than what was seen for Palestinian noncombatants. This suggests that selection of victims by their own side, which appears to account for the age distribution of Palestinian fatalities, is not a factor in Israeli noncombatant fatalities. Once more, this is an area for further investigation.
The rate of Israeli fatalities increased from phase to phase, until the re-occupation of Palestinian cities at the beginning of Phase 4. The age distribution of Israeli fatalities has become broader over time as well.
One frequently-used measure of the extent to which noncombatant fatalities represent “genuinely innocent victims” is the proportion of young males among them. A very high proportion of young males is taken to indicate that many of the fatalities likely resulted from confrontations that the victims could have avoided. Graph 2.27 shows that for the first three phases of the conflict, the proportion of Palestinian noncombatants killed by Israel who fit into this category was significantly higher than the proportion among Israelis – especially so during Phase 1, when 85% of the Palestinian noncombatants killed by Israel were males aged between 12 and 29. Since the beginning of the conflict, 63% of all Palestinian noncombatants killed by Israeli forces have been in this category; this compares with 26% of all Israeli noncombatants killed by Palestinians.
As noted above, Phase 4 appears to be less “intifada-like” than any previous phase of the conflict.
Graph 2.28 displays all Israeli fatalities by age, with combatants separated from noncombatants.
In addition to showing once more that the vast majority of Israelis killed have been noncombatants, this graph contrasts the very orderly distribution of Israeli combatant deaths – expected for a uniformed army with reserve service generally continuing until the mid-40’s – with a much broader distribution of noncombatant fatalities. (Note that the small number of Israeli combatants appearing in the “15-19 Years” category represents young conscripts, normally recruited at the age of 18. In fact, no Israeli 18-year-old combatants have been killed in the conflict so far; the youngest killed have been 19 years old.)
Graph 2.29, the equivalent graph for Palestinian fatalities, shows a completely different picture. Palestinian combatant fatalities, like those on the Israeli side, are concentrated in a narrow age range – although this concentration is slightly less pronounced. (This is unsurprising, given that Palestinian combatants are mostly members of unofficial terrorist/guerilla organizations.) Palestinian noncombatant fatalities, however, show an age distribution completely unlike that on the Israeli side. Instead of a “sloppy” distribution over a broad range of ages, Palestinian noncombatant fatalities are heavily concentrated among teenagers and young adults.
Graph 2.30 focuses specifically on noncombatants on both sides in their aged 45 and older.
While overall Palestinian deaths outnumber Israeli deaths by almost three to one, Israeli “mature noncombatant” deaths are more than double the equivalent Palestinian fatalities. (If we omit Palestinian noncombatants, such as “collaborators”, killed by Palestinians, the ratio is 2.7 to1.)
Graph 2.31 shows a detailed breakdown of Israeli and Palestinian young noncombatants killed by the opposite side, by age and gender. These fatalities display a rather strange pattern. Among both Palestinians and Israelis, the number of young children (under the age of 10-11 years old) is comparatively small (although more young Israeli children were killed as a proportion of total fatalities). The number of Palestinian children killed begins to increase at about 10 years of age, and jumps up dramatically between the ages of 12 and 13. However, the increase consists entirely of boys – the number of Palestinian girls killed shows no age-trend, and is very low for all ages.
Young Israelis killed by Palestinians show a different profile: Both boys and girls show an increase starting at age 14 (perhaps a year earlier for boys), and just as many teenaged girls were killed as teenaged boys.
What is significant in all these comparisons is, again, the contrast between the randomness of the pattern of Israeli fatalities and the more non-random distribution of Palestinian deaths. The random distribution is typical of terrorist attacks, which, though sometimes carried out in places frequented by young people, e.g. the Dolphinarium disco attack, may equally target restaurants or buses which are used by a wide spectrum of the population. Some of the most frequent targets of Palestinian terror attacks, such as open-air markets and public buses, are used disproportionately by the most vulnerable segments of society: women, the elderly, and the poor.
The fact that Palestinian deaths caused by Israeli actions do not, as a rule, follow the same pattern would seem to undermine claims that Israel deliberately targets Palestinian civilians.