UN Corrects Israeli Claim It Made Significant Changes To Official Death Count In Gaza

The dispute over numbers comes days after an Israeli representative shredded the UN charter in public.
Deputy Spokesman of the UN Secretary General Farhan Aziz Haq responded to criticism over its death toll from Gaza.
Deputy Spokesman of the UN Secretary General Farhan Aziz Haq responded to criticism over its death toll from Gaza.
Pacific Press via Getty Images

The United Nations has corrected recent claims from Israeli officials that the organisation altered its estimated number of people killed in Gaza.

A UN report from May 8 revised down the number of women and children thought to have been killed.

This led to questions over the veracity of its death toll estimates, even though the overall number of those killed remained consistent.

On Monday, the official X account for the State of Israel said these changes “did not release any press releases or statements, almost as if this reduction was a secret”.

However, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq explained these casualty figures – provided by the UN’s counterpart in Gaza, the ministry of health – remain “unchanged”.

He said the UN and Gaza officials still believe more than 35,000 people have been killed since the war began – but that the breakdown of those deaths has changed now 24,686 of the dead have been “fully identified”.

Haq continued: “There’s about another 10,000 plus bodies who still have to be fully identified, and so then the details of those – which of those are children, which of those are women – that will be re-established once the full identification is complete.

“The Ministry of Health says that the documentation process of fully identifying details of the casualties is ongoing.”

Haq explained that the number of dead now worked out to 7,797 children, 4,959 women, 1,924 elderly, and 10,006 men.

Previously, it was thought around 9,500 of those killed were women and 14,500 were children.

Haq added: “The Ministry of Health says that the documentation process of fully identifying details of the casualties is ongoing.”

Israeli officials have criticised the death count numbers coming from Gaza for some time.

The spokesperson for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oren Marmostein, criticised UN agencies for using those numbers, claiming they have been “manipulated by Hamas” just on Monday.

He said: “They are not accurate and they do not reflect the reality on the ground.

“The parroting of Hamas’ propaganda messages without the use of any verification process has proven time and again to be methodologically flawed and unprofessional.”

But Haq stood by the estimates coming out of Gaza.

He said previous death toll tallies have “proven to be generally accurate” especially during the “mass casualty incidents” which have occurred in the enclave every few years.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also stood by the figures, saying it has a “long-standing cooperation with the MoH in Gaza and we can attest that MoH has good capacity in data collection/analysis and its previous reporting has been considered credible.”

Spokesperson Margaret Harris said: “Real numbers could be even higher.”

Israel has allowed very few foreign journalists to go into Gaza since the war began, meaning it’s hard to get independent assessments of the death toll.

In November, Gaza officials also said they could not continue to count the number of Palestinians killed because of the difficulties in collecting such data while under attack.

Israel and the UN have often clashed in the past, and these tensions have only risen since the war in Gaza began.

Last Friday, an Israeli representative ripped up the UN charter while standing on the podium of the UN general assembly.

It happened just before members voted on offering new privileges to Palestinians at the UN.

By a margin of 143-9, and 25 abstentions, the UN voted to grant new “rights and privileges”, and reconsider Palestine’s request to join the world body.

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