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UN Slashes in Half the Estimate of Number of Women, Children Killed in Gaza War

May 15, 2024

by: Joshua Spurlock ~ Mideast Update

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United Nations Building, Geneva

Wednesday, 15 May 2024 | The United Nations [UN] last week quietly cut down by almost 50% their reported estimate of the total number of women and children killed in the current Gaza war—from 24,000 to 12,756. The UN report—published on May 8 as an infographic to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] website—did not even acknowledge the reduction. The dramatic drop underlines significant questions about all of the casualty reporting coming from Gaza, with the current UN-cited figure now getting closer to Israel’s estimate on those killed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a recent interview with Dr. Phil, said that 14,000 terrorists have been killed versus 16,000 civilians due to the “fact that [Hamas terrorists] use the human shield.” Even considering Hamas’s use of civilian human shields, that figure—of nearly a 1-to-1 ratio of combatants to civilians killed in collateral damage—would be astonishingly low in the modern era of urban combat, according to former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

The former Israeli leader noted that in the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the combatant-to-civilian casualty ratio was one-to-nine—or nine civilians dead for every one terrorist. As for Gaza, Bennett wrote: “The fact is that almost half the Palestinian casualties are of Hamas members. That is probably the lowest fighter: civilian death ratio in the history of urban warfare.”

Meanwhile, the reason given for the UN’s estimates of civilian deaths being reduced significantly was murky. UN Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General Farhan Haq, in comments to reporters published to the UN website, just indicated it was part of ongoing updates to the numbers.

“In the fog of war, it’s difficult to come up with numbers,” said Haq. “We get numbers from different sources on the ground, and then we try to crosscheck them. As we crosscheck them, we update the numbers, and we’ll continue to do that as that progresses.

Despite the significant revision to the UN reported estimate, Haq nonetheless claimed that “we’re just going with what we can absolutely confirm, which will always be the low end of what the numbers are… You can consider them reliable from the fact that we’re continually checking them. We’ll continue to do that over the course of the war.  But the numbers, you know, ultimately have to be regularly checked so that we can be sure that what we’re putting out is valid.”

Haq did not note that that the source for the data appears to have changed—the May 6 UN report cited the Government Media Office, while the revised figure in the May 8 report cited the Gaza Ministry of Health. Also not referenced by Haq is that the Ministry of Health itself has revealed it doesn’t know the names of 10,000 of the 34,000 allegedly killed—raising further doubts about the veracity of the numbers.

A Policy Brief published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies [FDD] by Director of Research David Adesnik noted a graphic published by the [Gaza] Ministry of Health on April 24 clarified less than 24,000 were “martyrs whose identities [sic] are recognized.” The May 8 UN report also backs that view, noting that the 34,844 Gaza casualties include 24,686 that were identified.

However, even those numbers are unreliable. As the FDD Policy Brief notes, communications with the hospitals have broken down during the war, with the Ministry of Health relying on alleged “reliable media sources” for thousands of deaths last year and then using such sources to account for over 75% of the deaths reported in the first quarter of 2024.

Israel Defense Force [IDF] Spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner underscored the significance of the UN revision of the numbers: “It took the UN 7 months to admit that #Hamas has been feeding them unconfirmed figures… All civilian deaths in this war are tragic and heartbreaking. Hamas has weaponized the civilian arena to exert maximum civilian casualties—using the people of Gaza, and the infrastructure of society as their Iron Dome.”

Meanwhile, the contrast between Israel and Hamas is stark. “The Israeli army, the IDF, is one of the most moral militaries in the world. It takes endless measures to prevent civilian casualties, measures that no other army takes,” said Netanyahu. “It does so while fighting a terrorist enemy which uses its own civilians as human shields.

“You know the truth. Hamas places its weapons, its terrorists in hospitals, schools, mosques and throughout civilian areas. They do this in order to win immunity and to maximize civilian casualties.”

Posted on May 15, 2024

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by the Mideast Update on May 12, 2024. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Ank gsx/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: Wikimedia