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Critics Charge Gaza Civilian Casualty Numbers Being Inflated by Those Who Should Know Better

Displaced Palestinians arrive in central Gaza after fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)
Displaced Palestinians arrive in central Gaza after fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

JERUSALEM, Israel – Civilians caught in the crossfire during battle are often described as a consequence of war.

While we have seen this during the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, some analysts say the reporting of civilian deaths in this conflict is being used as a propaganda tool.

Tragically, too many Palestinians have died in the more than two hundred-day war Hamas began on October 7th. 

Gil Hoffman, director of the media watchdog group Honest Reporting, recently published an investigative report on how Hamas has inflated the number of civilian casualties in Gaza.

Hoffman admits, "Of course, we have to start by saying that every human being whose life is lost is a terrible tragedy. And we're all created in the image of God."

But, he told CBN News, "Terrorists are not journalists. They're not people who should be trusted.  And the numbers that they're putting out are part of their propaganda game to try to win the world's sympathy. And it's – unfortunately – working."

The Gaza Health Ministry overseen by Hamas publishes those numbers. Currently, its death toll "reporting" stands at more than 35,000.

Hoffman asserts those numbers have been parroted throughout the war by world leaders, including President Joe Biden, and global media outlets such as The Associated Press.     

"You know, the world media, they try to be balanced. So, Israel says this. Israel says that based on the studies taken by the world's top experts in urban warfare, Israel set a gold standard in preventing the loss of civilian life," Hoffman explained. "So, that they put on our side.  And then the other side they put out; well Hamas says that that Israel is committing genocide.  It doesn't work that way. You don't trust a democratic government that's the top ally of the United States the same way you trust a terror organization."


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Statistics Professor Abraham Wyner from the Wharton School and the University of Pennsylvania wrote an article entitled, "How the Gaza Ministry of Health Fakes Casualty Numbers."

The data scientist studied Hamas statistics from the war's beginning, using a graph, and concluded, "Here's the problem with this data: 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."

This data also does not include the estimated 13,000 Hamas fighters killed in combat, or Palestinians killed by misfired rockets, estimated by some to be less than a thousand.

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) also reported this month that the Gaza Health Ministry cannot provide names for more than 10,000 people it says have died.

The FDD's David Asdenik told us, "We previously knew they had incomplete records for this set of people of at least 10,000, but from both Wall Street Journal reporting, and from an item on the Ministry's own social media feed, they've indicated that they don't have names. So, they can't really identify these individuals. It's really one more drop in a bucket on a broader credibility issue."

Asdenik also noted the Gaza Ministry of Health got its information from unidentified "reliable media sources."

"At first, that was only about 22 percent, but then it became an increasing percentage over time, so we got to a point where nearly 45 percent of the alleged deceased were based on these media reports," Asdenik said

In the latest revision, the United Nations published a report that reduced the number of women and children killed in the war by nearly half. They explained later that their overall estimate of the number killed in the war remains the same. They explained the revision to the "fog of war."

It's not the only example of suspected death tolls. Near the beginning of the war, the media reported Israel killed 500 people at the al-Ahli Hospital.

Later, it was discovered the cause was a misfired rocket by Islamic Jihad that had killed far fewer civilians in a parking lot next door to the hospital.

Abu Schlupp, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, admitted during interrogation that the story had been a lie.

"Yes," he stated, "in order to erase this story, the organization made several moves. It fabricated a story that the rocket belonged to 'the occupation', and the target was a hospital building. They relied on some of the stories of the international press."

Interrogator: "And after that, they published it to the whole world?"

Abu Schlupp:  "Yes." 

Former Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Jonathan Conricus, now with the FDD, told us, "First of all, I acknowledge that sadly, there are civilians, noncombatants, that have been killed in battle. Sadly. And that is not the intention of the IDF."

Conricus added, "I think the IDF has gone to tremendous lengths in order to minimize the amount of noncombatants that have been affected by this war. And I, as a human being, I regret any civilian who loses his life as a part of a fight that they didn't start."

Conricus alleges that Hamas rigged the battlefield.

"We must remember who embeds himself within the civilian population and abuses everything that is supposed to be protected under international law – hospitals, schools, mosques, U.N. facilities, infirmaries and everything else. The organization that does that is Hamas; and had Hamas chosen to fight out in the open and not to use civilians as human shields, not to tunnel underneath civilian neighborhoods, and not to hide behind civilian infrastructure, then, of course, there wouldn't be any civilian casualties," Conricus insisted.

Despite Hamas using human shields, according to military historian John Spencer, the ratio in Gaza of civilian deaths to combatants is near historic lows for urban warfare.

Conricus explained, "The fact that there are civilian casualties is an unfortunate result of Hamas's strategy and tactics and (the) IDF is still applying the principles of distinction and proportionality. It tries to strike only the military assets and it tries to strike with just enough force in order to get the military job done."

Even so, Hoffman says, the charge of genocide regrettably has spread worldwide into the streets and across social media.

"That ridiculous accusation for a war that started with the Hamas sending people into Israel to kill as many Jews as they could, and Israel doing everything possible to minimize civilian deaths," he said. "And unfortunately, that accusation is still out there. And that's just antisemitic to accuse Israel of that when the facts are just so obvious to be the opposite."

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