UN Revises Gaza War Death Toll Amid Criticism of Hamas-Controlled Sources

UN revises Gaza war death toll, reducing women and children killed by nearly half, citing updated data from Hamas-run Ministry of Health. Israel disputes the numbers, accusing Hamas of manipulating statistics, and calls for independent verification.

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Muthana Al-Najjar
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UN Revises Gaza War Death Toll Amid Criticism of Hamas-Controlled Sources

UN Revises Gaza War Death Toll Amid Criticism of Hamas-Controlled Sources

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has significantly revised its figures for Palestinian casualties in the ongoing Gaza war, reducing the number of women and children killed by nearly half. The agency's May 6 report initially stated that 9,500 women and 14,500 children had been killed in the fighting. However, just two days later, OCHA released updated numbers, putting the death toll at 4,959 women and 7,797 children.

Why this matters: The accuracy of casualty figures in conflict zones has significant implications for international responses to humanitarian crises, and can influence public opinion and policy decisions. Inaccurate or manipulated numbers can lead to inadequate or misguided responses, exacerbating the suffering of those affected.

The revised figures have sparked controversy, as they are based on data provided by the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza. Israel has disputed these numbers, claiming that more than a third of those killed are combatants and accusing Hamas of manipulating the statistics. Despite these concerns, the UN and international media have widely cited the Hamas-controlled figures without independent verification.

The disputed numbers have had far-reaching consequences, with President Biden quoting them in his State of the Union address and the State Department launching an inquiry into Israel's conduct based on the unverified data. The inquiry's findings were inconclusive, citing "reasonable grounds" to assess that Israel may have used US-supplied weapons inconsistently with international obligations, but no outright evidence of violation.

When asked about the sudden change in statistics, UN spokesman Farhan Aziz Haq attributed the variation to the Gaza Ministry of Health's verification process. He explained that UN teams on the ground are unable to independently verify the figures "given the prevailing situation on the ground and the sheer volume of fatalities."

Israel has repeatedly challenged the accuracy of the numbers coming out of Gaza, stating that they are being manipulated by Hamas and do not reflect the reality on the ground. An Israeli official emphasized that "Israel has repeatedly said the numbers coming out of Gaza and which are being echoed by UN agencies are being manipulated by Hamas, are not accurate, and do not reflect the reality on the ground."

The Gaza war, now in its seventh month, began with a Hamas-led terrorist attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages. Since then, the fighting has claimed nearly 35,000 lives, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in Gaza. Israel estimates that around 14,000 terrorists have been killed in the conflict.

The controversy surrounding the Gaza war death toll highlights the challenges of obtaining accurate casualty figures in conflict zones, particularly when relying on sources controlled by parties to the conflict. As the war continues, the international community will likely face increased pressure to verify the numbers and address the growing humanitarian crisis in the region.

Key Takeaways

  • UN revises Gaza war death toll, reducing women and children killed by nearly half.
  • Inaccurate casualty figures can lead to inadequate or misguided humanitarian responses.
  • Israel disputes UN figures, claiming Hamas manipulates statistics and over 1/3 of dead are combatants.
  • UN relies on Hamas-controlled data, citing inability to independently verify figures.
  • Accurate casualty figures are crucial, but challenging to obtain in conflict zones.