After international human rights organizations accused Israel of killing Palestinian policemen who were not involved in the fighting or in terror during the course of operation “Cast Lead”, a new study by Jonathan Dahoah Halevi shows that the complaints were hasty and baseless. The complaints that the IDF killed “traffic policemen” and innocent policemen are inaccurate. The decisive majority of the Palestinian “policemen” were activists in the military wings of the Palestinian terror organizations and fighters who had undergone military training. [1]

Israel was accused by the international human rights organizations of “illegal” attacks in the killing of hundreds of Palestinian policemen who were not involved in the fighting or in terror activity in the course of operation “Cast Lead”. Nevertheless, a check of the facts shows that the complaints by the human rights organizations were hasty and baseless. Amongst the 343 members of the Palestinian security forces who were killed, 286 were identified as terror organization activists (83.4%). The total number of terror activists and “fighters” amongst the Palestinian security organs dead therefore totals at least 311, that is to say 90.7% of the fatalities.

The Background

During operation “Cast Lead” (December 27, 2008-January 18, 2009) Israel attacked targets of the Palestinian terror organizations (primarily of Hamas) and targets of the security forces subordinate to the Hamas government. Human rights organizations – including Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and the Btselem organization – argued that the security forces targets were not legitimate military targets and the Israeli attacks were essentially illegal.

Human Rights Organizations: Israel Killed Innocent Policemen


In an announcement published on December 28, 2008 Amnesty International Organization noted that “Scores of unarmed civilians, as well as police personnel who were not directly participating in the hostilities, are among the Palestinian victims of the Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip. Such disproportionate use of force by Israel is unlawful and risks igniting further violence in the whole region”. [1]

Another announcement by the organization on December 29, 2008, stated that “Amnesty International reiterates its call for an end to reckless and unlawful Israeli attacks against densely populated residential areas which have killed more than 300 Palestinians since 27 December, including scores of unarmed civilians and police personnel not taking part in the hostilities.” [2]

Human Rights Watch

The Human Rights Watch organization addressed the issue of attacking Palestinian security forces targets in detail. In an official document of questions and answers pertaining to the war that it published on December 31, 2008 the organization noted the following:

“May Israel lawfully attack police stations and police personnel in Gaza? Israel has launched repeated attacks on police stations in Gaza, killing and injuring large numbers of police. The legality of such attacks depends on a number of factors; it is incorrect to assert that police and police stations in Gaza are automatically valid military targets.

Under international humanitarian law, police are presumed to be civilian – and thus immune from attack – unless formally incorporated into the armed forces of a party to a conflict or directly participating in the hostilities. Thus, police only engaged in ordinary police roles, such as regulating traffic or ordinary law enforcement, would not be subject to lawful attack, while those who are Hamas fighters can be targeted. Police who engage in both ordinary law enforcement and at times in fighting would, like other civilians, be subject to attack whenever and for such time as they were actively participating in the hostilities.

Police stations are presumptively civilian objects. However, if a police station is being used for military purposes, such as a Hamas military headquarters or a place to store weapons for use in fighting, that station could be subject to lawful attack. Such attacks in any case must not cause disproportionate civilian loss, and so must factor in any reasonably anticipated harm to police or others who are not participating in the hostilities. Without further research on the ground, it is not yet possible to determine whether the police stations struck by Israel served any military purpose, and were therefore legitimate objects of attack.” [3]

Human Rights Watch managed to complete its study on the attack targets and formulate a clear position in less than two weeks. In an oral declaration provided at a special Ninth meeting of the UN Human Rights Council on January 12, 2009, Human Rights Watch determined that “blanket attacks on Gaza police stations and ministry buildings, indicate that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is not limiting its attacks to military targets as required by the laws of war.” [4] In another announcement from January 27, 2009, it was divulged that the organization was investigating Israel’s “Targeting presumptively civilian installations such as police stations and government offices that were not legitimate military targets.” [5] Human Rights Watch notes that “Israel launched its military campaign on December 27 with an attack on the Gaza City police headquarters, which killed at least forty cadets during a police academy graduation ceremony.” [6]


The Btselem organization on February 8, 2009, published a document entitled “An Outline for Investigating the Actions by the Army.” The following was written in the document:

“On the first day of the operation on December 27, 2008, the Army bombed the main police building in Gaza and killed 42 police cadets who were at that moment on parade. From an interview that Btselem conducted with one of the course instructors it emerges that the cadets were studying first aid, methods of dispersing demonstrations, order drills etc. Later on the soldiers were assigned to the various arms of the police in the Gaza Strip that is responsible for maintaining order.”[7] The Btselem organization, so it seems, embraced the Hamas version that we are dealing with innocent policemen who are not terror activists and intended only to fulfill normal policing duties, and most definitely not take part in military activities or terror attacks against Israel.

Who Really Were the Palestinian Police Attacked by Israel?

The determination by the three human rights organizations – Amnesty HRW and Btselem -from which it could be inferred that Israel attacked innocent policemen was apparently impetuous. These organizations did not conduct an in-depth inspection regarding the identity of the killed soldiers nor did they await the publication of the IDF version that relied inter alia on tapping the intelligence sources regarding the targets that were attacked. The official list of the slain members of the Palestinian police was published for the first time on the police website only on February 24, 2009, in other words a relatively long time after the human rights organizations had already published their conclusions regarding the nature of the targets that were attacked. [8]

The human rights organizations made use of terminology such as “the Palestinian policemen”, “police”, police personnel”, and “police stations” in order to describe the slain members of the Palestinian security forces, while observing that one was not dealing with bodies that constituted an “army”, but a civilian policing force. This description of the Palestinian security forces is fundamentally erroneous. The term “Palestinian police” was incorporated in the interim accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (1995) pursuant to the Israeli demand that sought to avoid awarding the Palestinians the trappings of an independent state. Lumped under the rubric “Palestinian police” were all the sundry security bodies that fulfilled combat and terror roles against Israel, the intelligence and preventive intelligence bodies as well as those active in policing and maintaining order.

Following the Hamas victory in the parliamentary elections (January 2006), the government decided to establish a new security force-“the Executive Force”-subordinate to the Ministry of Interior, that is considered a qualitative military force intended for “qualitative missions” in the fighting against Israel and opposition elements to the regime (the force suppressed, including via the use of executions, protest activity by Fatah and other bodies). Jamal Abu Samhadana, who headed the Popular Resistance Committees terror organization and an ally of Hamas, was placed in charge of this force.

Following the military coup (June 2007) that enable Hamas to take over the Gaza Strip, the Hamas authorities conducted a reorganization of the Palestinian security forces (“the Palestinian police”). The main bodies are:

The Police-the qualitative infantry forces that are intended also for fighting against Israel and they comprise “the Rapid Intervention Force”, “the Executive Force”, “the Naval Police” and the “Military Police”.

National Security-an infantry force.

Security and Protection – a skilled force loyal to the Hamas regime in charge of providing security for the leadership and sensitive institutions

Internal Security – the preventive intelligence apparatus

Civil Defense- evacuation and rescue forces

An analysis of the lists of Palestinians slain in the years 2007 2008 reveals that activists in all the Palestinian security apparatuses took part in terror activity and fighting against the IDF. [9] The Hamas leadership presents these organizations alongside “the Palestinian Resistance” as the spearhead of the continued armed struggle and the jihad for liberating all of Palestine.

The Slain Members of the Palestinian Security Forces-the Numbers

The Palestinian police published an official list of 232 “policemen” killed in the course of operation “Cast Lead”. An examination of the names revealed that one of the policemen (Ibrahim Mahmoud Saad al-Masri) was included in this list by accident, because he was killed in fighting with an IDF force on June 11, 2008 and not in the course of operation “Cast Lead” and the list therefore includes 231 slain who are relevant to the study.

Ihab al-Ghussein, the spokesman for the Palestinian Military of interior, divulged that the number of killed in the Palestinian “police” totals 230, the security and protection apparatus sustained 50 fatalities, National Security and Internal Security 10 slain (it is not clear from the wording if he intended the total losses for both apparatuses or in each apparatus) and Civil Defense 11 slain. This means a total of 301 killed (or 311) amongst the various Palestinian security apparatuses of the Hamas government. [10]

This study examines the official lists of policemen that were published (the first partial list totaled 185 “policemen” and the second more inclusive one 232 “policemen”), and the lists of fatalities put out by the Palestinian human rights organizations PCHR and El-Mizan (that distinguish between police and civilians) as well as additional information that was published in open sources (the websites of the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government, the Palestinian press etc.). From the total data the names of 345 activists defined as Palestinian “policemen” or “security personnel” killed during the course of operation Cast Lead were amassed.

The job of gathering this data was not easy. The PHCR list notes the names of 1417 slain. Mizan includes in the report that it published 1346 killed. The Hamas government claims, that 1452 Palestinians were killed during the war. There is an unexplained gap of 106 killed. Additionally, an examination of the names of security forces slain (about 25% of the total number of killed) revealed duplicate entries of three killed on the PCHR lists were identified and they are: Ihab Abdallah Muhammed Hamdan, Islam Muhammed Abd-al-Rahim al-Sahar and Ashraf Zuheir Mahmoud al-Sharabasi. Two of the killed, (Muhammed Samir Abd- al Latif and Muhammed Adnan Salim Ata Allah) identified by the PCHR organization as policemen turned out to be civilians.

Spelling errors in the names also encumbered the research. Thus for example, PCHR notes today the family name of Ahmed Kamel Hamuda Al-Dalu as Al-Barlu and the family name of Ahmed Fuad Mahmoud Al-Askari as Al-Shurti. In another entry the first name of “Jihad” instead of “Bhaa”. We are dealing with typos (and deficient copying from the handwriting due to the similarity between letters), but they required careful inspection of all the data. Most problematic is the age of those slain. In this research we have the general year of birth for most of the entries in accordance with the age divulged by the human rights organizations. In cases where exact information existed the complete data was noted.

The Connection between the Slain Members of the Palestinian Security Forces and the Palestinian Terror Organizations

The PCHR organization contends that only 10 Palestinian “policemen” or “security personnel” were also “fighters”. All the rest it claims were “civilians”. An analysis of the list of the slain Palestinian security forces members (see the attached table) shows, that of the 343 killed from the security forces 258 of them (i.e. 75.2%) were Hamas activists and almost all of them were activists in Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. 12 killed (3.5%) were members of the Popular Resistance Committees terrorist organization, eight of the killed (2.3%) belonged to the military wings of the Fatah organization (Hamas supports some of the Fatah wings and operates them for its purposes), three of the killed were activists of Islamic Jihad (0.9%), 4 of the killed (1.16%) were defined as “fighters” and their organizational affiliation is unknown, and another killed (in 0.3%) belonged to the “Army of the Umma” that is an extreme Islamic terror organization identified as one of the offshoots of the Al Qaeda organization in the Gaza Strip.

One should emphasize that in the official fatality list killed published by the Palestinian police only one policeman was a member of the traffic division, and he was senior NCO Hussein Naim Hussein Abbas. This solitary traffic cop was also an activist in the Al Qassam Brigades.

Amongst the other killed there are 27 fighters (7.9%) out of the list of security forces killed belonging to units undergoing infantry training and intended for fighting against Israel, and they are: the National Security, Military Police the Intervention Force, Naval Force, bodyguards and the Cavalry Units that take part in patrolling the border with Israel. The total number of terror activists and fighters amongst those killed from the Palestinian security apparatuses therefore totals 311, namely 90.7%.

A check of the remaining killed from the Palestinian security forces did not produce an affiliation with any terror organization. Some belong to various units, such as extraction rescue and administration, two were civilians working in the police and with regards to the others no further details were discovered regarding their job, rank and the unit in which they served.

At the police headquarters that was attacked on December 27, 2008 an officer training course for policemen was in progress according to the PCHR list published on the official website of the organization 89 dead were counted (some died of their wounds after a few days). From these 60 of the killed (67.4%) belonged to Hamas and almost all of them were activists in the Al-Qassam Brigades., the military wing of Hamas, two (2.2%) belonged to the military wings of the Fatah and one of the killed (1.1%) to the Popular Resistance Committees. Five alone are not identified by organizational affiliation or by their military/security unit.

Amongst the others killed, 18 fighters (20.2%) out of the list of security forces members killed came from units that are undergoing infantry training and are intended for fighting against Israel, and they are: the military police, bodyguards and the Cavalry unit that takes part in patrolling the boundary with Israel. The total number of terror activists and fighters amongst killed at police headquarters (al-Jawazat) therefore totals 78, i.e. 87.6%.

No list was encountered detailing the names of all the students in the officer’s training course. Nevertheless, it is clear that the identification provided by the trainees’ names and a description of a course in the official sources can demonstrate the nature of the course’s participants and its contents. The official website of the Al-Qassam Brigades divulges, that we are dealing with “a theoretical military training course” (دورة تنشيطية عسكرية) that lasted a week and it was defined as a “closed course” (that included apparently sleeping at the base during the course). Below is information on 10 activists (out of 42 “policemen”) who took part in the military course and were killed in the IDF attack on December 27 while they stood on parade:

1. Omar Bakr Shimali -born in 1988, an activist in the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam brigades the military wing of Hamas. Already at a young age Shimali was an activist in the Hamas student organization (al-Kutla al-Islamiya) and as a adolescent joined the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. At first he operated with the framework of the “Support Unit ” of the al-Qassam Brigades; after a short period he was transferred to the “Advanced Unit” and at a later stage he was assigned to the “Special Unit” of the brigades and was stationed occasionally on front-line positions. At the same time Shimali, was active in the military police and worked at police headquarters.[11]

2. Mohammed Khaled Shahiber -born in 1987, an activist in the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Already at a young Shahiber was active in the framework of Hamas. In 2006 he officially joined by taking the oath of loyalty to Hamas and in 2007 he joined the Al-Qassam Brigades where in the framework of his activity he was occasionally stationed in front-line positions. [12]

3. Bilal Mahmoud Omar – born in 1989, an activist in the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. During his studies he was active in the Hamas student organization (al-Kutla al-Islamiya). In 2006 he joined the Muslim Brotherhood movement and at the same time he was active in the Hamas security apparatus. In 2007 after completing high school studies he joined the ranks of the Al- Qassam Brigades and was assigned to forward positions in the western region of Gaza on the seacoast. He took part in the military training of the Al- Qassam Brigades. He served as the security guard at the home of the police commander Tawfik Jabber. [13]

4. Sidqi Ismail Hamad-born in 1983, an activist in the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas. He was active in Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and in mid-2008 he joined the Al-Qassam Brigades. He served as a bodyguard of the Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and of the Member of Parliament for Hamas Khalil Al-Haya. He was an officer with the rank of lieutenant in the Security and Protection apparatus. [14]

5. Mohammed Tawfik Al-Nimra – born in 1986, was an activist in the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. He joined Hamas in 2003 and swore loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood movement a few days before he was killed in the attack. In 2006 he joined the ranks of the Al-Qassam Brigades and in their framework he underwent courses in horseback riding, operating mortars and first aid. He was stationed in front-line positions. [15]

6. Mohammed Ziad Al-Nabih – born in 1981 a member of the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. He was active in the Hamas high school and college student organization (al-Kutla al-Islamiya). He joined Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in 1995 and the Al-Qassam Brigades in 2004 and in their framework he underwent military training. He worked in the Palestine police. [16]

7. Nasser Abdallah Al Ghara-born in 1962, an activist in the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades,, the military wing of Hamas. He joined Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in 1989. A few years ago (apparently in 2004) he joined the Al- Qassam Brigades. He was active in the engineering unit of the Al- Qassam Brigades that was engaged in preparing explosive charges.[17]

8. Nahez Salim abu-Namous – was born in 1989, active in the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Already at a young age he was active in the framework of the Hamas school organization (al-Kutla al-Islamiya). In 2007 he joined the Al-Qassam Brigades and underwent in their framework military training that included inter alia infantry fighting and operating mortars. At first he was assigned to infantry units and subsequently to the artillery unit of the al- Qassam Brigades. [18]

9. Hussam Muhammed Al-Majaida – was born in 1982, active in the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. He joined Hamas in 2004 and a year later the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. He underwent basic military training as a fighter in the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades and was stationed in forward positions. He has active in the Executive Force of the Palsestine Police established by the Hamas Government in 2006. [19]

10. Hassan Maher Hassan Aruk -born in 1985, he was active in the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. He participated in Hamas movement activities. He was stationed in front-line positions. He joined the ranks of the Palestinian police after the Hamas military coup in summer 2007.[20]

The Manifest Miracle in Operation “Cast Lead”

The Palestinian terror organizations report on the fighting that they conducted against the IDF forces within the densely populated urban area of the Gaza Strip. Inter alia there are reports about the launching of many hundreds of mortar shells at IDF forces while they were still in the settled Palestinian areas, the launching of antitank missiles (RPG, Yassin and “Battar”) at Palestinian houses that the IDF forces had entered, small arms fire and machine gun fire at IDF forces within the Palestinian neighborhoods, detonating powerful explosive charges near Palestinian houses, booby-trapping houses and setting traps in transportation arteries, etc.

Nevertheless I have yet to encounter a single report about a Palestinian who was killed or was even lightly wounded by “friendly Palestinian fire”. All the Palestinians killed and wounded are exclusively attributed to the IDF. In all of Israel’s wars, including the war in Lebanon (Summer 2006) and in operation “Cast Lead”, the IDF sustained quite a few losses from “friendly fire”. In “Cast Lead” 4 soldiers out of the 10 killed and scores were wounded as a result of “fire from our own forces”.

The Palestinian achievement, so it appears, is “most impressive”. The Palestinian mortars proved themselves surprisingly as most accurate in fire against a built-up area, while the bullets of the al- Qassam Brigades were able to distinguish with an accuracy level of 100% between an IDF soldier and a Palestinian civilian. It is amazing that the human rights organizations, including the organizations Btselem, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, do not speculate about the explanation for this manifest miracle and they do not demand from the Palestinians to display the results of autopsies and crime scene investigations of the fragments in the corpses of those killed (or at least in cases where there is uncertainty regarding the circumstances of death).

Implications and PostScript

The charges made against

the IDF for presumably killing “traffic cops” and “innocent” policemen fulfilling a civilian role are incorrect. The decisive majority of the Palestinian “police” were activists in the military wings of the Palestinian terror organizations (and primarily those of Hamas) and fighters who had undergone military training.

An analysis of the data informs us that a “Hamasization” process of the Palestinian security organs has taken place since the military coup carried out by the organization in summer 2007 and the strategic pact between Hamas and other terror organizations (Resistance Committees, Islamic Jihad and splinter groups from Fatah) who received “representatives” in the security apparatuses.

The recruitment of Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades activists to the official security organs allows the Hamas government to pay their salary out of the government budget, and thus enlarge Hamas manpower levels and channel the organization’s independent resources to other needs such as armaments and the like.

The human rights organizations-Amnesty HRW and Btselem failed in their hasty publication of grave charges against the IDF on this matter even before the full and official data for the dead amongst the Palestinian security forces were published. Beyond this, it would have been proper for them as human rights organizations to have protested the transformation of the Palestinian security apparatuses into the strongholds of Palestinian terror organizations instead of accepting as logical and natural that community “policemen” could be members and activists in terror organizations who believe in genocide, and carry out this ideology in practice by terror atrocities including suicide bombings. The Btselem organization found it necessary to cite the words of an “instructor” from the Palestinian police (almost certainly a Hamas activist) regarding the nature of the “officer training course” without demonstrating a check of the trainees’ names.

The lists of Palestinian dead contain quite a few errors and one should not accept them as revealed authority. The PCHR organization failed to mention the affiliation of hundreds of Palestinian security personnel to the terrorist organizations and their being “fighters” and thus artificially inflated the list of “civilians” who were killed by the IDF.





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A similar study on the 2008 fatalities was recently completed and it will be published shortly.