What the Battle for Raqqa Tells Us about Civilian Casualties in the Gaza War

During Israel’s war with Hamas in 2014, the IDF was widely accused—including by the U.S. State Department—of showing flagrant disregard for civilian casualties. Evelyn Gordon refutes this libel by a comparison with the recent U.S.-led battle to evict Islamic State (IS) from Raqqa:

[The estimated] 3,000 casualties in Raqqa represented 1 percent of the city’s pre-IS population and a whopping 12 percent of its population as of early September. The casualties in Gaza, by contrast, represented about 0.12 percent of that territory’s population. Thus, as a proportion of the population, casualties in Raqqa were somewhere between ten and 100 times higher than those in Gaza, and almost certainly much closer to the higher figure. That is an astronomical difference.

Moreover, the real difference is probably even greater, due to the second critical factor: the effect of Raqqa’s more extensive property damage. . . . [O]n top of the 3,000 people known to have been killed in Raqqa, “many others are missing.” And many of the missing probably died and were buried under the rubble. . . .

In Gaza, . . . because the property damage was much less extensive, all the dead were located quickly and a total could be announced almost immediately. Final casualty totals in Gaza are being compared with very partial and preliminary counts in places like Raqqa and Mosul, making the Gaza conflict look bloodier by comparison than it really was.

IS and Hamas employ virtually identical tactics, which is why comparing Gaza with Raqqa . . . makes sense. Both dig extensive tunnel networks under civilian buildings, wire civilian buildings with explosives, stockpile arms in civilian buildings, and fight from the midst of a civilian population. These tactics greatly increase both property damage and civilian casualties, whether in Gaza, Syria, or Iraq.

Yet despite the enemy’s similar tactics, Israel produced vastly lower casualties as a proportion of Gaza’s population and much less property damage as a proportion of Gaza’s property than the Western coalition against IS did in Syria and Iraq. In other words, the very Western countries that accused Israel of “disproportionate” and “excessive” harm in Gaza were guilty of far greater harm in Syria and Iraq.

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Hamas, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, Military ethics, Protective Edge

 

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy