Israel-Hamas war, bulletins on the number of deaths in Gaza: where do the data come from?

For international media and beyond, it is practically impossible to independently verify the bulletins

The toll of people killed in Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip rises day by day, controlled by Hamas, taken after the terrible attack on October 7 in Israel. A budget updated daily by the Palestinian health authorities and relaunched by the international media reporting the data provided by the Ministry of Health of Gaza, closed to journalists from outside, while Palestinian reporters on site are increasingly at risk.

For the international media it is practically impossible to independently verify the bulletins. In one of its articles, the ‘Washington Post’ underlines how the newspaper itself, like other editorial groups, the United Nations and other international institutions “cannot independently verify the death tolls in the conflict between Israel and Hamas”.

The Israeli one speaks of at least 1,400 deaths in Israel in the October 7 massacre, the one provided by Gaza reports over 6,500 deaths since that day. The Post highlights how the only “partial exception” is represented by the database of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which – according to the website – checks the numbers of Gaza and Israel with at least one other source, but it’s time-consuming work. And the same newspaper further highlights how the US State Department (Hamas is on the list of terrorist organizations of the EU and the United States) also cited the bulletins released from Gaza.

The case of the explosion at al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza on 17 October has created tension. Shortly after the attack, the Gaza Ministry of Health spoke of 500 deaths. The following day the toll was corrected: 471 victims. “If so many people were killed, where are the bodies?” said Jonathan Conricus, spokesman for the Israeli forces (IDF). No data from the Israelis. What emerged from the USA is different: according to an intelligence analysis, shared with the American media, “the number of deaths is probably to be placed at the lower end of the range between 100 and 300”.

Many experts, the Post notes, consider the data provided by the ministry to be reliable, in light of its sources and the precision demonstrated in the past. “Everyone uses the data from the Gaza Ministry of Health because they generally prove to be reliable – summarized Omar Shakir, head of Israel and Palestine for Human Rights Watch – On the occasions in which we have verified the numbers of particular attacks, I don’t think there are any There have been cases where there have been major discrepancies.”

The Strip and the West Bank have two governments: the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, led by Fatah, and Hamas’ rivals in the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ takeover of Gaza followed its victory in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections. The following year, after taking control of Gaza, Hamas appointed its own health minister, separating the ministry from that of the West Bank.

There has been no shortage of accusations against Hamas by some officials of having removed doctors considered linked to Fatah. But in 2006, the Post recalls, Hamas won consensus partly by promising better services and some analysts recognize some improvements to the group.

However, Gaza’s health sector remains dependent on donor support, with organizations such as UNRWA providing medical support. And despite divisions with Hamas, the Palestinian Authority also guarantees part of its budget for healthcare and other services.