GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — A senior Hamas official admitted on Monday that up to 300 fighters were killed in the 2008-2009 Gaza war after the Islamist group initially put the toll at 48.
Hamas interior minister Fathi Hammad told the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat that between 200 and 300 Hamas fighters were killed during the 22-day onslaught in addition to hundreds of civilians.
"They say the people suffered from this war, but is Hamas not part of the people? On the first day of the war Israel targeted police stations and 250 martyrs were killed, from Hamas and other factions," he told the paper.
"In addition to them, between 200 and 300 fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas's armed wing) and another 150 security forces were martyred."
His numbers roughly match the 709 "terror operatives" the Israeli military said it had killed during the fighting, which included members of the Hamas-run police force that has patrolled Gaza since the group seized power in 2007.
The military has said the overall Palestinian death toll was 1,166.
Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have said that some 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in the fighting. Thirteen Israelis were killed, including 10 soldiers.
The day after the war ended with separately-declared ceasefires, a spokesman for the Al-Qassam Brigades said they had lost just 48 fighters while Israel had lost "at least 80 soldiers."
Hammad claimed that 50 Israelis had been killed during the war but said Israel had only publicised a fraction of the deaths.
Israel largely succeeded in the war's stated aim of halting rocket attacks from Gaza, with Hamas having held its own fire and taken steps to rein in attacks by other factions since the end of the fighting.
Hamas has, however, always claimed victory based on the fact that it survived the war in full control of the impoverished coastal territory despite being severely outgunned by Israel's military.
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