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A doctor at Gaza's Shifa Hospital told the Gaza correspondent of the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead might have been 500 or 600, mostly young men between the ages of 17 and 23, "drafted by Hamas, who sent them to the slaughter."

The doctor, who refused to identify himself out of fear for his life, also told the correspondent, Lorenzo Cremonesi: "It might have been like in Jenin in 2002. First they talked about 1,500 dead, and in the end it turned out to be only 54, among them 45 fighters."

The doctor said he was surprised that aid groups, including Western ones, reported the numbers without confirming them.

According to Cremonesi, the impression was that the number of wounded was also much lower than the 5,000 reported. "It is enough to visit a few hospitals to understand that the numbers don't jive. The European Hospital in Rafah and Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis have many empty beds. In the Al-Amal private hospital only five out of 150 beds are occupied."

Cremonesi also quoted civilians who said Hamas used ambulances to flee from Israeli snipers, and that civilians were forced to stay in their homes, from which Israel Defense Force soldiers were being fired on. According to one man, identified as Abu Issa, 42, of Tel Awwa, "They tried to goad the Israelis on. Sometimes they were only 16 or 17, armed with machine-guns ... They knew they were much weaker, but they wanted the Israelis to fire on our homes so they would be accused of war crimes."

His cousin, Um Abdallah, 48, said: "On almost all the roofs of the tall buildings that were hit by Israeli bombs there were rocket-launchers or Hamas look-outs. They placed them by the U.N. storehouse that burned down."