Associated Press Looks at the Gaza Casualty Numbers

AP Photo/Abed Khaled

Questions have been raised about the reliability of the casualty numbers coming from the Gaza Ministry of Health since last year. Some who've taken a closer look have argued that the figures don't add up. Last month even the United Nations appeared to adjust its figures when it stopped relying on those put out by a Hamas controlled PR office.


At this point, about a third of the people these groups have identified as war deaths lack either a name or an identification number. And if you look at the 2/3 of the figures that are considered confirmed, you find that fewer women and children (as a percentage) have been killed each month.

When Israel first responded to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, which killed some 1,200 people, it launched an intense aerial bombardment on the densely populated Gaza Strip. Israel said its goal was to destroy Hamas positions, and the barrage cleared the way for tens of thousands of ground troops, backed by tanks and artillery.

The Gaza death toll rose quickly and by the end of October women and people 17 and younger accounted for 64% of the 6,745 killed who were fully identified by the Health Ministry...

As the intensity of fighting has scaled back, the death toll has continued to rise, but at a slower rate – and with seemingly fewer civilians caught in the crossfire. In April, women and children made up 38% of the newly and fully identified deaths, the Health Ministry’s most recent data shows.

These figures showing that the percentage of civilian deaths are declining each month don't match up with the claims repeatedly made by Hamas.

In February, ministry officials said 75% of the dead were women and children – a level that was never confirmed in the detailed reports. And as recently as March, the ministry’s daily reports claimed that 72% of the dead were women and children, even as underlying data clearly showed the percentage was well below that.


The AP also found other problems:

AP’s examination of the reports found flaws in the Palestinian record keeping. As Gaza’s hospital system collapsed in December and January, the ministry began relying on hard-to-verify “media reports” to register new deaths. Its March report included 531 individuals who were counted twice, and many deaths were self-reported by families, instead of health officials.

The AP report also notes that the Gaza health ministry doesn't keep a count of militants which means there is no agreed upon figure of the number who had died. Hamas once put the total at 20% or about 6,000. Israel says the number is around 15,000. US estimates are closer to the Israeli total, suggesting there are 9,000 to 12,000 Hamas fighters left from a starting point of 20-25,000.

The question now is whether this AP report will finally cause other news outlets to be more skeptical of the Hamas figures, especially the claims about the number of women and children killed. So far the media's willingness to take these numbers for granted is probably one of the major reasons Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar feels Hamas is winning this conflict.

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