UN’s explanations on new Gazan death toll statistics defy logic


The United Nations on May 8 shrank its casualty figures for Palestinian women and children by around 50% while recording no substantial change in the overall Gazan death toll in the war that has raged since the terrorist entity Hamas brutally massacred about 1,200 people and captured 243 hostages on Oct. 7, 2023.

On May 6, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported 34,735 deaths, of which it stated 14,500 were children and 9,500 were women. OCHA attributed the figures to the Hamas-run Government Media Office, whose accounting methods have long been questioned by researchers. On May 8, OCHA reported 34,844 deaths, with 7,797 victims being children, and 4,959 being women. OCHA cited the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health as the source of the new data but did not explain why it suddenly rejected the GMO figures it had used for months.

David Adesnik, a senior fellow and director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been tracking the Health Ministry’s data closely. He and other researchers, including Gabriel Epstein of the Washington Institute, noted that the Health Ministry has been reporting two distinct groupings of victims since mid-December 2023. The first were victims whose identifying information had been recorded in a central database linked to the hospital system in Gaza. The second was a growing tranche of victims whom Health Ministry officials said had been reported through “reliable media sources.”

By April, Adesnik said the Health Ministry admitted that it lacked complete data for the second tranche of victims, which had grown to more than 10,000. Though the Health Ministry has never explained what data are missing from these unidentified persons’ records, Adesnik said he believes the Health Ministry does not have names for the deceased.

In its May 8 infographic, OCHA notes that 24,686 of 34,844 victims have been identified, matching the Health Ministry’s terminology in describing its first grouping of victims, recorded through the Gazan hospital system. OCHA then explains that there are “more than 10,000 reported missing or under the rubble.”

Health Ministry officials, however, have never said the more than 10,000 unidentified victims counted are assumed buried under rubble, or otherwise missing. In fact, Adesnik said around 3,715 of the Health Ministry’s 24,686 identified victims have been reported to the ministry by loved ones who presume the victims are dead as they have gone missing or may have been buried under destroyed infrastructure.

OCHA did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment about why it is now using Health Ministry figures to count Gazan deaths, or whether it is aware that the Health Ministry already counts those individuals still missing and presumed dead in its total of identified victims.

In a May 13 press briefing, Farhan Aziz Haq, the deputy spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, appeared to repeat misleading facts about the Health Ministry’s unidentified victims. Haq told reporters that “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 reestablished once the full identification process is complete.”

The Washington Examiner asked Haq whether the U.N. believes there are 10,000 physical bodies awaiting identification, rather than a tranche of data, as the Health Ministry has previously stated, collected through unidentified media sources.

“We are aware that the Ministry of Health has said that the documentation process of casualties’ full identification details is ongoing,” Haq said.

Given that OCHA was unresponsive to the Washington Examiner’s inquiry, the Washington Examiner asked Haq what led the agency to change its figures.

Haq passed on the following information from the U.N. agency: “OCHA indicated the latest figures released by the MoH in Gaza of identified fatalities. This number had not been available before because the MoH had not been identifying enough of the fatalities out of the total reported. The higher number of women and children reported as killed by GMO still may be accurate and the MoH is continuing its work in identifying each fatality. The overall number of reported fatalities has not changed.”


Adesnik said he finds serious fault in these explanations.

“OCHA cannot plausibly claim that the lower numbers from the MOH were not available until early May,” Adesnik said. “The ministry issued reports almost every other day in April with numbers far lower than what the GMO was quoting,” he said. Moreover, Adesnik said that “simple arithmetic shows why the GMO numbers cannot be accurate,” explaining that “it is impossible for 11,000 [of 10,000 unidentified individuals] to be women and children.”

Adesnik said the U.N.’s reduction “speaks to major malfeasance. They don’t want to be upfront about a huge failure of due diligence on the part of the U.N. and specifically OCHA. There was ample implication that the numbers from GMO were deeply flawed and inflated months ago,” Adesnik said, adding that OCHA is now “trying to hide the fact that they screwed up all along.”

Beth Bailey (@BWBailey85) is a freelance contributor to Fox News Digital and the co-host of The Afghanistan Project, which takes a deep dive into nearly two decades of war and the tragedy wrought in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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