There were 17,825 persons killed and another 30,203 wounded during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, according to a detailed survey of police and hospital records conducted by the independent Beirut newspaper An Nahar.
The newspaper, the most respected in the Arab world, said today that the highest death toll occurred in southern Lebanon where 1,709 civilians and 5,862 troops from the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Syrian Army and Lebanese private militias were killed. The figure for Beirut and its suburbs was 5,515 killed, but no breakdown between military and civilian deaths was available.
The rest of the casualties occurred in east Lebanon and in other parts of the country. The figures do not include Israeli casualties, which have been reported by Jerusalem as comparatively low.
The estimates by An Nahar included the period from June 4, when Israel began bombing Lebanon two days before the invasion, until the end of August. The totals were the latest and among the highest yet estimated.
Casualty etimates have been controversial almost from the beginning of the war, with Israel claiming that Lebanese and Palestinian figures were vastly exaggerated.
The Israeli Embassy in Washington said it had no new casualty figures to release and no immediate comment on the An Nahar report.
The controversy began in mid-June when the Palestine Red Cresent Organization, a local branch of the Red Cross, estimated that there had been 10,000 casualties even before the start of the major Israeli assaults on heavily populated Beirut.
Israel countered that the figures were inflated and ranged more in the hundreds than the thousands. Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon recently said that there had only been 2,000 casualties, mostly military.
Where specific figures for an area exist in previous estimates, there were also widespread discrepancies between Israeli estimates and those by others.
For instance,the International Committee for the Red Cross reported it treated 247 patients in its facilities in Tyre in southern Lebanon and counted 47 other persons killed. At the same time other hospitals and clinics treated an unknown number of additional casualties, yet the Israeli foreign minister said on July 18 that only 95 persons were injured and 56 killed in the entire battle for Tyre.
One relief official, although careful to say there was no way of obtaining an exact figure, said the An Nahar totals were "not surprising."
"If they are wrong, they probably are not all that wrong," he said, adding that the estimates were most likely to be accurate in the two areas of heaviest casualties, Beirut and the south.
The official did question the ratio between military and civilian casualties given by the newspaper, which said that 9,797 military personnel and 2,513 civilians were killed outside the Beirut area. Similarly, it said 15,393 military personnel and 3,671 civilians were injured in the same area.
His organization had found that about 80 percent of the injured were civilian and only 20 percent military, he said. He cautioned there was the possibility of double counting of some wounded patients who were transferred from one hospital to another.
An Nahar said its figures were likely to be on the conservative side since they could not include countless bodies as yet uncovered in high-rise buildings that were bombed in Beirut nor did they account for persons buried privately by families or in mass graves.
The injury totals also only accounted for those hospitalized and did not include persons given first aid and then released, the newspaper said.