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MEE reports:

Biden told reporters at the White House that he has "no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth" about the number of people killed by Israel so far. "I'm sure innocents have been killed, and it’s the price of waging a war," he added.

In response, the health ministry published a 210-page report, detailing the names, ages, genders, and ID numbers of every person killed in the enclave. The ministry said an English version of the report will be published soon.

[...]

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, told the Washington Post earlier this week the ministry's figures are "generally proven to be reliable".

“Everyone uses the figures from the Gaza Health Ministry because those are generally proven to be reliable,” he said. “In the times in which we have done our own verification of numbers for particular strikes, I’m not aware of any time in which there’s been some major discrepancy.”

The [US] National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby has reiterated that the numbers are not reliable. However, when pressed by Reuters, he didn't add/give any evidence for his assertions. (He repeated the usual line that the numbers "put out by an organization that's run by a terrorist organization" can't be trusted.)

So, beside the US presidency and the Israeli government, which seem to just assert that, are there any detractors that can illustrate with case studies how far off the Gaza Ministry of Health generally is from the truth regarding death tolls, particularly when it comes to armed conflict victims?

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    Can you clarify something please? Are you asking if the overall number of casualties is accurate, or are you asking if the casualty list is accurate (the list of names, ages and genders). Israel, with it's numerous western medical facilities and DNA labs is still unable to identify over a third of it's victims over two weeks after the initial attacks so for the Gaza authorities to produce an accurate list of names, ages and IDs under current conditions is extremely impressive. Oct 27, 2023 at 16:41
  • The general impression I've gotten from military and political experts is that they consider any statements like this from participants in a war suspect without independent confirmation, even if they otherwise trust the government or institution. Simply because there are huge incentives to publish information that supports your own side. An example would be the war against Ukraine where while experts might consider Russian statements entirely fiction, they also don't take Ukrainian ones at face value.
    – Mad Scientist
    Oct 27, 2023 at 19:49
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    @MadScientist: IIRC that's more about Ukrainian claims of Russian casualties. Are Ukrainian claims of their own casualties (typically civilian) also questioned in the West? Oct 27, 2023 at 19:51

1 Answer 1

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This article and this are a good start.

Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said

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.

and

A UN official who declined to be publicly identified said his agency had used and checked Gaza health ministry data for years. “I have seen nothing that says to me they are making the numbers up. We looked at some of the Israeli bombings and the numbers of deaths the ministry is claiming for a particular attack are broadly in line with what we have seen in previous wars.”

Both of those claims give some legitimacy to the numbers, but they are far from confirming them. There is also a counter evidence showing

The ministry claimed there were at least 500 deaths in an Israeli airstrike. Later accounts suggested that a misfired Islamic Jihad rocket aimed at Israel was responsible and that there was a lower death toll, of between 100 and 300 people, although a final figure has not been settled on.

Where some source claimed the death toll could be as low as 50.

I couldn't find any other source then Omar Shakir, who is cross quoted, and the anonymous UN source to support the credibility of Gaza's Health Ministry

On the same note there is no direct evidence that I could find about lack of credibility, except for the general notion that Hamas are a direct side of the conflict, has an interest to "play" with the numbers and shouldn't be trusted, like in this Twitter thread.

Another piece of the puzzle could be the credibility of the only witness we have, Omar Shakir's CV on the Human Right Watch site doesn't put him in a very objective place

As a result of his advocacy, the Israeli government deported Omar in November 2019

and

report comprehensively documenting how Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against millions of Palestinians.

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    "Where some source claimed the death toll could be as low as 50." Who claimed that? And why should we trust them? Oct 27, 2023 at 16:47
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    "the Human Right Watch site doesn't put him in a very objective place" because he documents what the Israeli authorities are doing?
    – njzk2
    Oct 27, 2023 at 16:52
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    @njzk2: yeah, Israel seems to retaliate on the visa front for any perceived slight politico.eu/article/… "Israel’s U.N. ambassador Gilad Erdan told Israeli radio on Wednesday morning that the country has denied a visa to U.N. Under Secretary-General Martin Griffiths, following Guterres’ comments." Oct 28, 2023 at 3:06
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    @Fizz The hospital director puts the number at 250, the diocese which manages the hospital at 200, and US intel sources at 100-300. The 471 number from Hamas (via the health ministry of gaza) is pretty far from that (see wiki for a collection of sources). 50 probably comes from the Times of Israel, referencing an unnamed "European official".
    – tim
    Oct 28, 2023 at 15:12
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    Of interest is that the 471 toll continues to be part of the total GHM numbers. This was mentioned for a while by Western news sources but dropped recently. Also has been pointed out that GHM never gives number or age of militants killed. Fighters are often in their teens.
    – YouDontSay
    Nov 17, 2023 at 14:21

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