Hamas casualty numbers are ‘statistically impossible’, says data science professor

University of Pennsylvania statistician has analysed the widely quoted death figures put out by the terror group


Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry figures have indicated that over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks. (Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

Data reported by the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry since the start of the war indicates that the official civilian death toll is “statistically impossible”, according to statistical analysis conducted by a University of Pennsylvania data science professor.

In an article published by Tablet Magazine on Thursday, statistician Abraham Wyner argues that the official number of Palestinian casualties reported daily by the Gaza Health Ministry from 26 October to 11 November 2023 is evidently “not real”, which he claims is obvious "to anyone who understands how naturally occurring numbers work.”

Looking at the total number of deaths reported each day, Wyner writes: “The graph of total deaths by date is increasing with almost metronomical linearity,” with the increase showing “strikingly little variation” from day to day.

“The daily reported casualty count over this period averages 270 plus or minus about 15 per cent,” Wyner writes. “There should be days with twice the average or more and others with half or less. Perhaps what is happening is the Gaza ministry is releasing fake daily numbers that vary too little because they do not have a clear understanding of the behaviour of naturally occurring numbers.”

As second point of evidence, Wyner examines the rate of child casualties compared to that of women, arguing that the variation should track between the two groups.

"This is because the daily variation in death counts is caused by the variation in the number of strikes on residential buildings and tunnels which should result in considerable variability in the totals but less variation in the percentage of deaths across groups,” Wyner writes. “This is a basic statistical fact about chance variability.

“Consequently, on the days with many women casualties there should be large numbers of children casualties, and on the days when just a few women are reported to have been killed, just a few children should be reported.”

The lack of correlation between the number of children reported to have been killed and the number of women reported to have been killed presents circumstantial evidence that the numbers are not real, according to Wyner.

He also points to a strong negative correlation between the number of female and male casualties, which “makes no sense at all.”

The low level of male casualties reported is inconsistent with a report last month that Hamas lost 6,000 of its fighters, which represents more than 20 per cent of the total number of casualties reported.

If 70 per cent of casualties are women and children as Hamas has reported, then “Israel is somehow not killing noncombatant men, or else Hamas is claiming that almost all the men in Gaza are Hamas fighters.”

Wyner says the evidence presented is “highly suggestive that a process unconnected or loosely connected to reality was used to report the numbers. Most likely, the Hamas ministry settled on a daily total arbitrarily.”

The Gaza Health ministry is the only official source for Gaza casualties. In December, the World Organisation’s Richard Brennan told BBC that he considers their reported casualty figures trustworthy, and the UN has consistently relied on the ministry’s figures when discussing the conflict. President Biden has also publicly cited their figures.

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