update deskIsrael at War

Hamas health ministry can’t find 10,000 names of those it claims died

"This is the first admission that it lacks an essential data point necessary to establish these deaths have even taken place."

Israeli forces operating in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 8, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israeli forces operating in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 8, 2024. Credit: IDF.

The Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health can’t provide names of more than 10,000 of the 34,000 it says have died during the war with Israel, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies reports.

“While the Health Ministry conceded earlier this month that it has ‘incomplete data’ for nearly one-third of the deceased, this is the first admission that it lacks an essential data point necessary to establish these deaths have even taken place,” the Washington-based think tank noted on May 2.

On April 24, the ministry released a graphic to mark the 200th day of the war that started when Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7, repeating its claim that the hostilities had claimed more than 34,000 Gazan lives. However, it added that only 24,000 of the dead are “martyrs whose idintities [sic] are recognized.”

As of April 21, 10,152 of the ministry’s fatality records had incomplete data. “An explanatory note in the April 1 digest says incomplete records lack one or more of five basic data points: ID number, full name, sex, date of birth, or date of death,” FDD reported.

While it was unclear which of those data points was missing, “it is now clear the ministry does not have names for these individuals,” FDD said.

U.S. President Joe Biden has cited figures from the Gaza Health Ministry without identifying them as such.

“Before citing them again, he should ask the intelligence community to evaluate the data’s sources and accuracy,” FDD said. “Likewise, journalists should press the Gaza Health Ministry to explain the increasing number of inconsistencies in its reports.”

Some have challenged the Hamas casualty figures.

Abraham Wyner, a professor of statistics and data science at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in Tablet magazine in March, “The numbers are not real. That much is obvious to anyone who understands how naturally occurring numbers work.

“The casualties are not overwhelmingly women and children, and the majority may be Hamas fighters,” he wrote.

Wyner noted that child casualties should track with women casualties. This has to do with the daily variation in strikes on residential buildings and tunnels.

“Consequently, on the days with many women casualties there should be large numbers of children casualties, and on the days when just a few women are reported to have been killed, just a few children should be reported,” he wrote.

FDD noted in its report that economist Michael Spagat, who defended the ministry’s methods, admitted that when looking only at the complete records, “then the percentage of women and children drops to 53.3%,” as opposed to the 70% or more the ministry has often claimed.

Hamas began to retreat from that claim in April.

The IDF says it has killed more than 13,000 terrorists inside the Strip during the current war, and around 1,000 inside Israel on or immediately after Oct. 7

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