UN Revises Estimate of Palestinian Children Killed in Gaza Conflict

The UN has revised its estimate of Palestinian children killed in the Gaza conflict from 13,450 to 7,797, citing the "fog of war" and questioning Hamas-supplied figures. The revised total death toll in Gaza is 34,844, with discrepancies remaining between UN and Israeli government estimates.

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Nitish Verma
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UN Revises Estimate of Palestinian Children Killed in Gaza Conflict

UN Revises Estimate of Palestinian Children Killed in Gaza Conflict

The United Nations has significantly reduced its estimate of Palestinian children killed in the ongoing conflict in Gaza, citing the "fog of war" and questioning the accuracy of figures provided by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry. The revised figures have raised questions about the UN's reliance on casualty numbers supplied by Hamas without independent verification.

Why this matters: The accuracy of casualty numbers in conflict zones has significant implications for international relations, humanitarian efforts, and the accountability of parties involved. The controversy surrounding the UN's estimates highlights the need for independent verification and transparency in reporting conflict-related casualties.

In mid-March, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported that 13,450 children had been killed in Gaza, based on figures from the Gaza Health Ministry. UNICEF Director Catherine Russell described the numbers as "staggering" and "really shocking." However, last week, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released updated casualty figures, stating that 7,797 Gazan children had died in the war as of April 30, a roughly 42% drop from the original estimate.

Critics argue that the UN's reliance on figures provided by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry is problematic, as Hamas has a vested interest in exaggerating casualty numbers. Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, stated that the UN's goal is not accuracy but rather to portray Israel as malevolent. "The right thing for the U.N. to do now would be to admit that their casualty count in Gaza is a complete failure," Neuer said.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, attributed the discrepancy to the "fog of war," stating that it's difficult to come up with accurate numbers in the midst of conflict. "Numbers get adjusted many times over the course of a conflict. Once a conflict is done, we'll have the most accurate figures," Haq said.

Independent scholars and researchers have identified errors in the numbers published by OCHA, which are ultimately based on Hamas reporting. For example, Hamas reported nearly 500 deaths in an October 17 strike on Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, which turned out to be a Palestinian rocket misfire. Salo Aizenberg, an independent scholar and author, stated that it's outrageous that the UN is only now questioning the Hamas-supplied casualty numbers, seven months into the conflict. "It's absolutely true that the fog of war makes it difficult to assess casualties, but this was the case from the beginning of the war," Aizenberg said.

The revised UN figures show 34,844 people killed in Gaza as of May 8, including 4,959 women and 7,797 children. However, Israeli government spokesman Avi Hyman stated that Israel's "genuine estimate" of the number of casualties in Gaza was 14,000 terrorists and 16,000 civilians. Hyman emphasized that Israel adheres to international humanitarian law and does its utmost to avoid civilian casualties while targeting Hamas. The ongoing discrepancies and lack of independent verification of casualty numbers underscore the challenges in obtaining accurate information amidst the fog of war.

Key Takeaways

  • UN reduces estimate of Palestinian children killed in Gaza from 13,450 to 7,797, citing "fog of war" and questioning Hamas-provided figures.
  • Accuracy of casualty numbers has significant implications for international relations, humanitarian efforts, and accountability.
  • Critics argue UN's reliance on Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry figures is problematic due to vested interest in exaggerating numbers.
  • Independent verification and transparency are needed in reporting conflict-related casualties to ensure accuracy.
  • Ongoing discrepancies highlight challenges in obtaining accurate information amidst conflict.