December 11

The Battle Over Casualty Counts in Gaza

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Still 'fine-tuning' our process. You can get to the original article HERE

Reprinted from Honest Reporting.

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The war between Israel and Hamas rages not only within Gaza, where Israel has a decisive advantage, but also on the battlefield of public opinion, where Hamas seems to be winning. Among the most important and contested items in this information war is the number of Gazan civilians killed.

The military action in Gaza has tragically resulted in many civilian deaths, including children, mainly because Hamas deliberately embeds itself inside and under Gazan cities. Hamas’s human shield strategy, which its leaders acknowledge, is deliberately intended to lead to elevated civilian deaths, thereby ratcheting international pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire that would leave Hamas intact.

Hamas therefore has a strategic interest in inflating the death count. A close review of the Hamas casualty statistics, which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs publishes daily, citing the Hamas-run Ministry of Health and Government Media Office, suggests that the figures are falsified. Specifically, they vastly inflate the death toll among women and children, as opposed to men and combatants.

Related reading: Media Rush To Defend Hamas Ministry Providing Skewed Data on Gaza Casualties

The UN, which has never been a friend to Israel, has assisted Hamas in its misinformation campaign by uncritically publishing the terror group’s casualty figures. To inflate the number of women and children killed, a recent UN update even suggests that the cumulative—not daily—number of men killed in Gaza declined.

The UN reported on Dec. 5 a cumulative total of 16,248 Gazan fatalities, 1,041 more than it reported on Dec. 2. Inexplicably, however, over the same period the UN reported 1,353 new fatalities among women and children—even more than the number of new deaths those days. To square the figures, Hamas would have us believe that the cumulative number of men of any age killed in Gaza declined by 312, from 4,563 to 4,251, over these three days.

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Similar numerical manipulations can be found in many other daily reports. For example, on Oct. 19 the UN reported that the cumulative fatality figure rose by 307, while on the same day the number of children newly reported killed increased by 671—somehow hundreds more than the total new fatalities. On Oct. 26, the UN reported an increase of 481 cumulative fatalities, but newly reported women and children killed increased by 626 that day. On Oct. 29, the UN reported 302 more cumulative fatalities, but the number of newly reported women and children killed increased by 328. To swallow these figures, one would have to accept that Israel killed not a single adult male on any of those days.

There are statistical improbabilities found on several other days, too, when Hamas claims that fewer than 5% of newly reported deaths were men—six out of 216 on Oct. 31, four out of 306 on Nov. 7, and 44 out of 929 on Dec. 7. Based on these numbers, Hamas effectively claims that the IDF is doing everything possible (and more) not to kill combatants, or any men at all.

While casualty numbers can be fluid amid a war, the consistent one-sided nature, magnitude and frequency of the numerical anomalies suggest Hamas is inflating the number of women and children killed in a manner that cannot be explained by statistical margins of error or identification lags, as some may contend. It is simply not believable that, from one day to the next, and on multiple occasions, fewer than one in twenty previously unidentified or newly found bodies were men.

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Press reports from Dec. 5 indicate that the IDF believes the total death count of approximately 15,000 Gazans appears accurate, but that the figure includes more than 5,000 Hamas members, mostly men. On Dec. 9 Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said that at least 7,000 terrorists have been killed. These figures haven’t been independently verified, but the balance it would imply between men, women and children makes much more sense than Hamas’s figures.

The resulting ratio of roughly two Gazan civilian deaths for every one Hamas combatant killed would also compare favorably to other recent urban combat actions by Western armies. The Battle of Mosul against ISIS saw 9,000 to 11,000 civilian deaths, about three to four times the number of combatants killed. Richard Kemp, the retired colonel who commanded British Forces in Afghanistan, recently noted that allied forces there killed between three and five civilians for every one combatant.

Any casualty estimate that takes into account Hamas deaths would starkly contradict the notion that Israel is bombing Gaza indiscriminately, let alone the libelous charge of genocide. While the human cost of the war Hamas forced upon Israel undeniably remains high, it is time for the UN, NGOs and political leaders to stop using Hamas figures in their assessment of the conflict. Instead, these numbers must be seen for what they are: the propaganda of a terrorist group that has announced its intention to commit a “million” Oct. 7 massacres.

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Salo Aizenberg is the author of Hatemail: Anti-Semitism on Picture Postcards and serves on the Board of Directors of HonestReporting. The views expressed are solely those of the author.

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Featured image: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images

Honest Reporting is a website that seeks to bring balance to the left slant in the major news media.


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