Palestinians at the site of a destroyed police car after it was hit from an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on February 7, 2024. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90 Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90
Gazan civilians


OCHA’s figures are widely sourced by international leaders, diplomats, the media and humanitarian aid organizations.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

A United Nations agency tracking Gaza’s casualty figures reduced by half the number of women and children killed in the Strip since October 7, raising questions about conflict’s true death toll.

An infographic published by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on May 8 indicated that 4,959 women and 7,797 children have been killed in Gaza since October 7. That was half the number indicated on a May 6 infographic which reported 9,500 women and 14,500 children had been killed.

Both infographics sourced the figures to “Gaza HMO” or Health Ministry officials. Gaza’s Health Ministry is run by the Hamas terror group.

OCHA did not offer any explanation for the dramatic revision. OCHA’s figures are widely sourced by international leaders, diplomats, the media and humanitarian aid organizations.

Israel’s war against Hamas is now in its eighth month and the casualty figures have not been independently verified.

Israelis have questioned the numbers, pointing out that the Gaza Health Ministry is run by Hamas, and has a record from previous conflicts of blurring distinctions between civilian and combatant casualties, or attributing natural deaths to Israeli operations.

More recently, critics have raised issues with statistical anomalies, pointing out that Hamas’s claim that 70% of the victims are women and children is statistically impossible.

On April 6, the Hamas-run Health Ministry announced on its Telegram channel that it had “incomplete” data on one-third of the casualties. In response, experts told The Press Service of Israel that Hamas’s announcement needed to be treated with skepticism, and that the true number of Palestinian civilians killed in the conflict may never be known.

“The idea in psychological warfare is to get the enemy always on the worrying side, to shake its confidence and power. The Palestinians have lied all throughout the conflict with Israel. They lie about the number of Palestinians living in the West Bank, they lie about the Palestinians living in Gaza, they lie as a system,” Dr. Ron Schleifer told TPS-IL at the time.

Schleifer, who teaches communications at Ariel University said, “If you don’t want to call them liars, they’re inconsistent and dubious. But the idea is the same. You inflate your numbers depending on what image you want. You can lie to show weakness when weakness is the winning argument. That’s when they inflate the numbers of people killed. The inflated death toll is an element of psychological warfare.”

The revised figures also raise questions about OCHA. On Wednesday, TPS-IL exposed how the agency is republishing Hamas propaganda through reports written by Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, whose current and former directors have been identified as Hamas operatives.

The reports, seen by TPS-IL accuse Israel of “genocide,” organ theft, using banned thermal weapons, burying Palestinians in mass graves, massacring Palestinians in Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, deliberately using Palestinians as human shields, and sexually assaulting Palestinian women. These reports are published on Relief Web, an information portal overseen by OCHA and widely used by the international humanitarian community.

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Around 30 of the remaining 132 hostages are believed dead.

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