The health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza has published a report listing the names of more than 6,000 “documented deaths” in Gaza since the October 7 terror attacks on Israel, after US President Joe Biden questioned the reliability of Palestinian casualty figures.
The report stated that between October 7 and 26, 7,028 Palestinians were killed, including 2,913 children, and blamed the deaths on Israeli military “aggression.” It said a further 281 bodies had not yet been identified.
The ministry said the actual number of dead is likely to be much higher than stated in the report. The list of 6,747 names gives the sex, age and identity card number of each of the victims.
On Wednesday, Biden said he had “no confidence” in the figures of civilian casualties reported by the Gaza Health Ministry. “I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed,” Biden told reporters. “I’m sure innocents have been killed and it’s the price of waging war.”
The dispute highlights the complexities in reporting the number of deaths in Gaza. Numbers of casualties for the besieged enclave are released daily, both by the ministry in Gaza and by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in the West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority is run by a rival faction to Hamas, though the umbrella Ministry of Health maintains a relationship with the ministry in Gaza.
The Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammad Shtayyeh, also criticized Biden’s remarks, saying his health authority in the West Bank believed the numbers to be accurate.
“There are certain leaders who don’t want to see reality. They only want to see what is happening on the Israeli side. They don’t want to see what is happening on the Palestinian side,” he said in an interview Thursday with Al Jazeera.
“The numbers are correct,” he added. “They are our numbers. These numbers are fed to us from the hospitals of Gaza every single day that are received by our Ministry of Health.”
On Thursday, White House spokesman John Kirby echoed Biden’s remarks, calling the Gaza-based ministry “a front for Hamas,” though when asked he did not dispute that thousands of Palestinians, many innocent civilians, had been killed.
Conflicting claims over the number of people who died in the explosion at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City on October 17 have deepened the dispute over the reliability of the numbers reported from Gaza. The ministry put the final tally at 471. An initial US intelligence assessment was that between 100 and 300 were likely killed in the blast. Other analysts have said the number could be significantly lower, in double figures, based on the size of the impact crater at the site.
Kirby noted that the ministry initially reported 500 people had died in what it claimed was an Israeli air strike.
“So, we know that’s not true, and we’ve now since found out that the numbers aren’t that high, either,” he said. “They haven’t gotten up to 500 – now it was it was at least a couple of hundred, and that’s terrible, and that’s atrocious, and that’s sad, and we all obviously grieve with the families and loved ones who are affected by that, but the numbers are not reliable.”
The Israeli military has similarly expressed doubts about the casualty numbers being reported out of Gaza, but has not provided evidence that they are exaggerated.
Thursday’s report from Gaza said it excludes those buried without being brought to hospital, those for whom hospitals were unable to complete registration procedures, and people missing under the rubble, who number around 1,600, with many of them feared dead.