Wile E. Coyote vs. the Israeli Air force : a slightly mathematical look at the “Gaza massacre”

Hear that It’s the sound of children’s laughter… silenced’

I’m reminded of this classic Kent Brockman quote when I think about the western reaction to the ongoing civil war in Syria, only instead of laughter, it’s the sound of outrage and massive demonstrations that is absent.

During the last 18 months more than 15,000 unarmed civilians have been killed in Syria,
But for some reason, there haven’t been any huge demonstrations across the globe, no one is gathering in the public squares and calling for an end to the violence and accusing the responsible parties of war crimes.
To see and hear what this kind of outrage looks like, we have to go back to January 2009 when tens of thousands of people gathered in London, Paris and other major cities to voice their concern and condemn the Israeli “atrocities” in Gaza.

Google tells us that there are currently 200,00 hits for “Gaza massacre”, and since Google doesn’t have a sarcasm filter, we can safely say they consider the Israeli actions to have been ‘The intentional  killing of a considerable number of human beings, under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty, or contrary to the usages of civilized people.’

Between 295 and 926 Palestinian civilians were killed in the 22 days of the fighting in Gaza.
This large discrepancy is due to the fact that there are no fairly credible sources for casualties when two non-democratic bodies like the Hamas and the IDF are involved.
I shall therefore take the mean of 611 as the number of civilian casualties.
611 human lives lost is certainly enough to warrant the title of “massacre”, but only if done intentionally.
When we take a clear objective look at the figure of 611 dead in relation to the following factors:
1 Civilian casualty ratio.
2 Nature of conflict.
3 Amount of military force applied.
it is strikingly clear that far from being targeted, Israel has done more to avoid killing civilians in Gaza  than any other force or nation in human history.

1 Civilian casualty ratio.

According to Wikipedia, Since the mid 20th century the average civilian casualty ratio has been ten civilian deaths for every combatant killed.
This ratio includes famously brutal wars, where the enemy rarely distinguishes between soldiers and civilians.
In more “civilized” wars, led by NATO in the past decade, the figures are considerably different, in Afghanistan and Iraq the ratio has been between three to four civilians per combatant.
During the Gaza war the ratio was less than one civilian casualty to combatant killed which is unprecedented in any conflict ever recorded.

To quote Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, the Israel Defense Forces “did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”

2 Nature of conflict

There are several reasons that make the Gaza war very susceptible to civilian casualties.

Reason 2.1 Urban warfare

One of the few things all field soldiers agree on is this: Urban warfare sucks.
It’s messy, dirty and dangerous.
There’s no glory to be had fighting amidst a civilian population, collateral damage is massive and it’s not what regular armies are trained for.

The Gaza war was nearly 100% urban warfare.
Hamas and the various factions do not have regular bases due to the overwhelming aerial superiority of the Israeli air force.
Apart from the initial strike on Hamas offices and police stations, all the subsequent military actions were directed at ground targets such as smuggling tunnels and rocket firing crews, all of which operate within the general population.

Reason 2.2 Difficulty in distinguishing between fighters and civilians.

Hamas fighters do not always wear a uniform and are hard to tell apart from civilians unless they are firing on you, making the fighting extremely precarious and the chances of accidentally harming innocents much greater.

Reason 2.3 Lack of bomb shelters and flat topography.

There are no public bomb shelters in Gaza, and the houses and apartments are not equipped with an enforced protective area like the ones mandatory in Israeli apartments.
This is due to a combination of Islamic fatalism/martyrdom and the fact that dead civilians are considered a media coup that advances the Palestinian cause.
No bomb shelters means that the number of civilian should be much higher than it would under regular circumstances.
Gaza’s topography is also pretty lousy for hiding, no mountains and caves like Afghanistan or Vietnamese jungles, it’s a big flat sandbox where you can see and hit everything.

Reason 2.4 Population density.

The Gaza strip is the 6th most populated area on the globe.
1,7 million people are crammed into 365 square kilometers of land.
44% of the population is 14 years old or younger, which means if you were randomly dropping bombs you would be as likely to kill a child as you were to kill an adult.
In reality, the number of children killed was less than one fifth of the total number of Palestinians killed and less than half the number of civilians killed.

Reason 2.5 Human shields and booby traps.

Hamas and the other factions have used civilians as human shields, either as individuals or by operating in/near schools, hospitals and UN institutes.
As this video shows, many houses in Gaza were rigged with explosives and booby traps, sometimes this caused a chain reaction which lead to adjacent houses getting hit.

3 Amount of military force applied.

It’s funny when an article attempts to establish one thing when the facts it presents clearly demonstrate the opposite.

This article from The Independent accuses Israel of war crimes and “wanton use of lethal force”, but the statistics it quotes at the end of the article tell a different story.

If the killing was wanton and indiscriminate, how come there are so few women among the casualties? Knowing what we know about the percentage of children in Gaza, the number of children killed is also too low to be indiscriminate.

But the most telling figure is the number of Israeli airstrikes.
2360 airstrikes have killed 1013 people.
It took more than 2 airstrikes to kill a single person and 4 airstrikes to kill a civilian in one of the most densely populated regions on earth.
Talk about wanton.
Let’s look more closely at how ridiculous this figure is.

During the course of the operation the IDF used its navy, infantry, artillery and armored divisions to attack Gaza.
But we are going to ignore them and assume they were not responsible for a single casualty.
For the argument’s sake they were all firing blanks.
Which leaves us with just the airstrikes accounting for the 1013 dead.
The airstrikes were carried out by F-16 fighter planes and Apache gunships.
There are lots more F-16s Than Apaches in the IDF and they are much better at bombing, so I would estimate the number of F-16 airstrikes at 2000 and guess that the Apaches, like the navy and infantry, didn’t kill anyone.
An F-16 is capable of carrying 4 tons of bombs and considering the tiny distance and lack of opposing air force and anti-aircraft batteries there is no reason it shouldn’t when bombing Gaza.

Now let’s do some rough math.

2000 F-16 airstrikes * 4 tons of explosives= 8000 tons of explosives to be dropped at will.

8000 tons of bombs / 1000 people killed= 8 tons to kill a single person!
Adjusting just for civilian casualties we arrive at 13 tons to kill a single civilian!
The only being I can think of who uses that much explosives for a single target is Wile E Coyote.


So either the IDF went out of their way to try and not harm civilians, or they are as cartoonishly incompetent as MR. Coyote.

Since Gaza is 365 square kilometers in size, if we were to divide the total payload we would receive the following results.

8000 tons of bombs / 365 square kilometers=  21 tons of explosives per square kilometer.

21 tons of explosives / 200 (American football fields that fit in square kilometer) = 100 kilos of explosives for every football field sized piece of land in Gaza.

1,700,000 people in Gaza / 73,000 football field areas  (365 square kilometers * 200 football fields per square kilometers) = 23 people per football field.

Now imagine a 100 kilo bomb exploding in a random location in a football field that holds 23 people randomly placed.
Such a bomb has a lethal blast radius of at least 10 meters each way and in total will cover an area of slightly more than 300 square meters.

A football field holds about 17  such blast zones (5300 / 300), so 23 /17 = 1.3  people on average should be hit and killed by the random bombs per football field.

1.3 people per field * 200 fields per square kilometer * 365 square kilometer total land mass = a whooping 95,000 dead in a totally random bombing!

So if the Israeli air force had randomly dropped small bombs on the entire territory of GAZA (which also includes beaches, agricultural fields and empty spaces) it would have killed 100 times more people than it did by using smart bombs and state of the art fighter-bombers.

In conclusion, any serious scrutiny of Israel’s military actions in Gaza will show that it has set an incredible standard high morality and low mortality which will be a touchstone for all nations.

Accusations of a massacre are preposterous, but so are many other anti-Israeli claims which are widespread and I’ll try to address in future posts.

All the best and Meep Meep!

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