UN appears to halve Gaza casualty count for women and children

Doubts have been raised over the veracity of the Palestinian death count since October 7


Palestinians walk along a street in the aftermath of an Israeli strike in Al-Zawayda in the central Gaza Strip (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

The United Nations appears to have halved the number of women and children that they believe have been killed in Gaza since October 7.

In a report published on May 8, the supranational body wrote that there had been 34,844 reported Palestinian fatalities during Israel's war against Hamas.

This included 4,959 women and 7,797 children, comprising 20 per cent and 32 per cent of the total respectively.

Just two days earlier, however, a UN report reported the death toll at 34,735 with 9,500 women killed and 14,500 children.

The body added: "The UN has so far not been able to produce independent, comprehensive, and verified casualty figures.”

The shifting statistics come after months of speculation over the accuracy of Gaza’s death toll.

Last month, the territory’s Hamas-run Ministry of Health said it held “incomplete data” for a third of the Palestinian casualties recorded.

In a report it said 11,371 recorded deaths were missing one or more of the victim’s identity number, full name, date of birth or date of death. 

According to Hamas, the Gaza death count is primarily collated by hospitals.

Around 17,000 fatalities have been recorded in this way, the ministry has said. Several hospitals, including Al-Shifa, have been the site of battles, however, complicating data collection.

The other deaths are based on accounts from “reliable media sources”, according to the Hamas-run ministry, although it has not revealed which these are.

A report published by Fathom Journal earlier this year claimed the ministry’s assertion that 70 per cent of all casualties of the war were women and children was “statistically impossible”.

Joe Truzman, senior research analyst at the Long War Journal, said at the time: “It is important to recognise that Hamas is deeply invested in shaping the narrative that emerges from Gaza, particularly regarding the number of casualties in the war.

"Moreover, this control of data extends beyond the statistics provided by the Hamas-controlled health ministry, as there is also a deliberate effort to downplay the number of terrorists who have been killed by Israel in the war, potentially numbering more than 10,000.”

Two analyses published in medical journal The Lancet in December argued that the numbers were credible.

The UN has been contacted for comment.

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