During the ongoing conflict, the health department in Gaza has issued a health advisory. Concerns have been raised by Joe Biden about the accuracy of their reported casualties and injuries from the Israeli attack on Gaza, as the health department is controlled by Hamas.
I am skeptical of the accuracy of the Palestinian reports on the number of casualties. While I acknowledge that there have been innocent lives lost, I do not trust the figures provided by the Palestinians. This is the unfortunate reality of war.
The ministry reported that in the past three weeks, the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza resulted in the deaths of 7,028 Palestinians, including 2,913 children. This comes after Hamas launched a cross-border attack that killed approximately 1,400 Israelis and abducted over 200 others.
To prevent accusations of falsification, the ministry released a 212-page roster containing the names and identification numbers of all Palestinians allegedly killed in the Israeli airstrikes.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations urged Biden to express regret for his “disturbing and degrading” comments.
Nihad Awad, the director of the council, stated that journalists have verified the significant amount of casualties in Gaza. Numerous videos released daily depict the bodies of Palestinian women and children in gruesome condition, as well as entire city blocks reduced to rubble.
“President Biden should watch some of these videos and ask himself if the crushed children being dragged out of the ruins of their family homes are a fabrication or an acceptable price of war. They are neither.”
Luke Baker, a previous bureau chief for Reuters in Jerusalem, is one of the individuals urging news outlets to exhibit doubt.
Baker posted on X, stating that it should be evident for any reputable news outlet to disclose that Hamas is in charge of Gaza’s health ministry. He also mentioned that Hamas has a strong motivation to exaggerate the number of civilian casualties for propaganda purposes. However, Baker did not deny the fact that civilians are indeed being killed.
Some claim that the ministry consistently provides accurate numbers of casualties and has been targeted in a propaganda battle as Israel attempts to downplay the impact of its frequent airstrikes on Gaza.
Previously, the US state department’s yearly report on human rights referenced Palestinian data when citing UN statistics, which were indirectly obtained through the same ministry’s casualty numbers.
Human Rights Watch’s director for Israel and Palestine, Omar Shakir, stated that he did not see any proof of numbers being falsified.
He stated that for the past 30 years, we have been observing violations of human rights in the Gaza Strip, which have occurred multiple times. We have typically found the information from the health ministry to be trustworthy.
After conducting our own individual investigations into specific strikes, we have compared our findings with those reported by the health ministry and have found no significant discrepancies.
Their figures are typically in line with the current situation on the field over the past few days. There has been a significant number of daily airstrikes in an area that is among the most densely populated in the world.
“We’ve looked at satellite imagery. We’ve seen the number of buildings, and the numbers that are coming out are in line with what we would expect with what we’re seeing on the ground. So you put all those things together and we’re quite confident in the overall casualty numbers.”
Shakir stated that it was difficult to distinguish between combatants and civilians among the deceased, but the significant number of women and children killed suggests a high number of civilian casualties. He also emphasized the importance of differentiating between immediate casualty figures released on a daily basis and those gathered over time, when there is more clarity.
There have been doubts raised about the accuracy of the statistics provided by the Gaza health ministry. This is related to the disagreement surrounding the cause of a significant blast at al-Ahli Arab hospital and the number of fatalities resulting from it.
The government stated that an Israeli airstrike resulted in a reported 500 fatalities. However, subsequent reports indicate that an errant Islamic Jihad rocket, intended for Israel, may have been the cause, resulting in a lower death count of 100-300 individuals. The exact number of casualties has not been confirmed.
Nonetheless, Shakir and other individuals have stated that the number of fatalities reported immediately following an attack should be differentiated from calculations derived from documented information.
The Gaza health ministry has a track record of providing accurate numbers for casualties. This is due to their thorough documentation of the deceased individuals and their close-knit communities being aware of the deaths.
Shakir stated that the data is typically organized in a manner where there are comprehensive divisions that contain personal information for each individual. This is one of the reasons why we have confidence in its accuracy.
According to an anonymous UN representative, his organization has been utilizing and verifying data from the Gaza health ministry for several years.
I have not found any evidence that suggests the numbers are fabricated. Upon examining Israeli airstrikes, the reported death toll from the Ministry aligns with previous conflicts.
He explained that the higher casualty numbers were due to the significantly larger scale of the attacks compared to previous wars. He clarified that the numbers were not being exaggerated.
Shakir stated that the health ministry has become entangled in a larger dispute over public perception, where Israel has also faced allegations of manipulating casualty numbers to downplay civilian fatalities and falsely declaring unarmed Palestinians killed by the military in the West Bank as combatants.
Shakir stated that Israel and its allies often choose to ignore or avoid facing difficult realities instead of confronting them.
“As long as there is a fog of war and misinformation, the situation can continue without accountability. This means that innocent Palestinian children will continue to lose their lives every day.”