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Gaza Fatality Data Has Become Completely Unreliable

“Given the discrepancies in official Palestinian counts and their growing reliance on questionable data from media reports, the credibility gaps revealed by a previous Washington Institute study have become yawning chasms. Heated debates over the Palestinian death toll in the Hamas-Israel war tend to focus on the fact that widely cited fatality numbers make no distinction between combatants and noncombatants. While this is true, it misses a more fundamental problem—the numbers themselves have lost any claim to validity. In the first month of the war, the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health (MOH) in Gaza relied on its existing collection system, made up primarily of hospitals and morgues, to certify each death. Starting in early November, however, hospitals in northern Gaza began to shut down or evacuate during the Israeli ground invasion, spurring the MOH to introduce a new, undefined methodology for counting fatalities: media reports. This methodology, which the MOH has rarely acknowledged publicly, accounts for the majority of fatalities reported over the past four months, surpassing the traditional collection system. A comparison of the two methodologies, using MOH reports and claims published by the Hamas-controlled Government Media Office (GMO), yields wildly different and irreconcilable results, indicating that the media reports methodology is dramatically understating fatalities among adult males, the demographic most likely to be combatants. This undercuts the persistent claim that 72 percent of those killed in Gaza are women and children—a problem that has worsened since it was first noted by a Washington Institute report in January…To assess this problem, the author has assembled a comprehensive collection of publicly available Gaza fatality data that includes:

  • Daily updates covering the period October 7 through March 21, obtained from four sources: the Hamas-run MOH in Gaza, the Hamas-run GMO, the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health in Ramallah, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) (which simply relays Gaza MOH/GMO claims, sometimes inaccurately).
  • Compiled data from thirteen Health Sector Emergency Reports published by the Gaza MOH between December 11 and March 18 (these documents can be accessed via the MOH Telegram channel or the Internet Archive).
  • Two comprehensive MOH data releases on October 26 and January 7 (the latter covering up to November 2 for all of Gaza and up to January 5 for the south).

The following analysis is based primarily on the Health Sector Emergency Reports and occasional GMO updates. Download a condensed version of the author’s database (Excel).

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