To hear Hamas officials tell it, nearly every casualty in Israel's 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead was an innocent civilian. Nearly two years later, the group's interior minister acknowledges Hamas lost hundreds of fighters.
In an interview with the London-based Al-Hayat, Fathi Hamad said 250 Hamas fighters died in the three-week conflict, and another 150 "security personnel" were killed, too. Just after the fighting ended, Hamas claimed no more than 50 of its people were among the 1,300 casualties.
Israeli officials reported nearly half of those killed in the fighting were tied to Hamas or other terrorist groups.
Israel launched Cast Lead to stop missile fire from Hamas and other terrorist groups that targeted civilian communities. The fighting exposed how Hamas used schools, mosques, apartments and other areas to both store weapons and launch missile attacks.
Hamad is unapologetic about placing innocents in harm's way and for reports of human rights abuses by Hamas security forces in Gaza, the Jerusalem Post reports. "We are not a society of angels," he said, adding, "We seek to advance the institutions and training, we are keen on the prestige of the police and their enforcement of the law. At the same time, we need to preserve the dignity of the citizen."