Hamas data on civilian casualties in Gaza war is misleading and easily disproved

Opinion: The international media should not play into the hands of terrorists who had no problem raping, murdering and kidnapping civilians on October 7, knowing that this would lead to a severe retaliation on their own civilians
Sefi Kedmi |
The global media consistently quotes Hamas' figures regarding the casualties in Gaza. As of this writing, the number they cite uncritically is 33,000 Palestinian deaths in Gaza, but these numbers are inflated and hide the fact that, in this war, the civilian casualty mortality rate is relatively low. It's imperative to understand these figures, as Hamas' sole way to survive is by increasing and inflating the civilian casualty figures, in order to pressure the international community to stop Israel's just war on the perpetrators of the October 7 massacre.
First, the matter of credibility is important. It doesn't seem to bother those quoting these figures that these numbers come from Gaza's Health Ministry, controlled by the terrorist organization Hamas, which has a track record of blatant lying and a clear interest in inflating civilian casualty numbers while concealing its own combatant casualties. According to the IDF's estimates, approximately 12,000 Hamas fighters have been killed so far in the fighting.
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פלסטינים מתקהלים ליד מחסנים של אונר"א ב עזה
פלסטינים מתקהלים ליד מחסנים של אונר"א ב עזה
Gazan Palestinians gather near UNRWA food distribution center
(Photo: REUTERS/Mahmoud Issa)
It's crucial to recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization whose data is misleading and easily disproved. The claim that 70% of the dead are women and children is easy to refute since, if the IDF eliminated 12,000 Hamas fighters, almost all of whom are men, then accordingly that would lead to the conclusion that every man killed in Gaza is a Hamas member (and more), including the elderly, as the remaining 30% who are not women and children are by definition men. Moreover, 12,000 military casualties constitute 36% of the 33,000 reported to have been killed, meaning that there are about 2,000 of the Hamas casualties claimed by the IDF as killed (6% of 33,000) who should be categorized as women and children. This strengthens the argument that many of those categorized as children killed are actually young Hamas fighters and/or that Hamas just lies.
Additionally, it appears that in Gaza people don't die unless it's in a war. The natural mortality rate in the West Bank and Gaza, according to World Bank data, stands at 0.4%. Applied to the six months since the war began, this rate would be 0.2% out of a population of 2.2 million, meaning 4,400 individuals died in circumstances unrelated to the war, to Israel or to the conflict; however, they are of course counted by Hamas as war victims.
It's highly probable that all these deaths are civilians, mostly elderly and sick individuals, not fighting-age combatants. Moreover, the actual natural death toll is likely much higher, with many dying due to lack of proper health care resulting from the war's strain on Gaza's health care system. These thousands are also war victims in the war instigated by Hamas and other terror organizations, who exploit humanitarian facilities for military purposes, thus making them military targets, which lead to them being attacked. Had they stayed civilian, these places would have not only provided care for the civilian population in Gaza, but would have also offered refuge for many.
These numbers alone reduce the civilian death toll in Gaza caused by Israeli attacks to at most 15,000 and probably even less, meaning less than half of the casualties are civilians. In modern warfare history, a ratio of less than 1:1 between combatants and civilians is considered a very low civilian casualty rate. In the Vietnam War, the ratio was 1:3, in the Chechen Wars 1:4.3, in NATO's war in Serbia 1:4, and in the Iraq War, civilian casualties accounted for 77% of deaths. However, it's crucial not to stop here, as even 15,000 civilian deaths are a significant and tragic number that must be acknowledged.
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פגיעות והרוגים בבית חולים ברצועת עזה
פגיעות והרוגים בבית חולים ברצועת עזה
An Islamic Jihad rocket landed on al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza
Most casualties occurred at the beginning of the conflict when the IDF targeted its strikes from the air and when Hamas fired masses of rockets daily toward Israel. According to estimates, 25% of these rockets misfired and landed in Gaza, like the incident at al-Ahli Hospital, in which Hamas initially claimed that Israel destroyed the hospital and killed about 500 civilians, but it later turned out to be an Islamic Jihad rocket, miraculously resulting in almost no casualties and without harming the hospital at all.
Unlike Israel, which ensured shelters and safe havens for its citizens, Hamas only made sure its own fighters are safe in the tunnels. From the start of the conflict until the end of the 2023, approximately 12,000 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza. As a result, around 3,000 of the rockets launched by the terror groups landed on the Gazan civilian population, who had no shelter or other means of defense. These are likely a major cause of the high number of civilian casualties counted by the end of 2023, numbering about 22,000, according to the Hamas -run Health Ministry. This would also explain the high number of casualties of all ages, since indiscriminate rockets do not know who they target, as opposed to rockets fired by the IDF, predominantly at military targets.
It cannot be seriously argued that 3,000 rockets landing on defenseless civilians had no significant impact on the 22,000 deaths until the end of 2023. Prior to the outbreak of war, many Palestinians were documented to have been killed by Palestinian rocket fire landing in Gaza. However, remarkably, after the war broke out, their documentation ceased. Another supporting factor for this conclusion is the significant decrease in child casualties reported by Hamas authorities as time passed and the rockets launched out of Gaza toward Israel and landing in Gaza decreased dramatically.
In contrast to the terrorist organizations' rockets, the IDF mostly targets specific objectives with precision, often based on specific intelligence. Moreover, the IDF frequently refrains from firing when there are many civilians in the area, especially children. Furthermore, there is ample evidence of Hamas terrorists firing at Gazan civilians who tried to flee war zones to the declared safe areas, or when they tried to get to the humanitarian aid which Hamas' terrorists took control over.
Another widely quoted statistic is the number of children killed. Gaza indeed has a very high number of minors, accounting for about 75% of the population. But beyond the fact that Hamas and other terror groups sometimes shoot at their own civilians, they also use children and young adults as combatants. Many boys ages 12-18 are armed with RPGs and rifles and, when sent to fight, they end up as Hamas' cannon fodder and die in combat. According to the lists published by Hamas, there's hardly any difference between the death rates of boys and girls ages 0-9, however the gap starts widening as the ages increase. The gap between boys' deaths aged 10-13, is 20% higher than girls', and between ages 14-17, the gap widens to 33%.
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מפגן צבאי בעזה
מפגן צבאי בעזה
Hamas terrorists in Gaza
(Photo: EPA)
Hamas' use of child-fighters is heinous and is a double war crime against these poor kids who are undoubtedly victims of the war Hamas chose to wage on Israel. Nonetheless, it's essential to understand the data when discussing child casualties and categorize them separately from civilian casualties, as they perish as combatants while carrying arms. However, in the global media, all minors who die are simply considered innocent children and are counted as such.
The main takeaway is that all wars are horrible, and civilian casualties are inevitable in war, but this war was initiated by Hamas, whose sole chance of survival is to inflate the civilian casualty figures. Israel goes out of its way to minimize civilian casualties, not only for moral reasons but also because that's in its own interests and it shouldn't be singled out or held to unrealistic standards in a war it didn't choose.
The international media should not play into the hands of those who had no problem raping, murdering and kidnapping civilians on October 7, knowing that this would lead to a severe retaliation on their own civilians. The media should not play into Hamas' hands and allow it to distort reality and manipulate its way to survival. The first ones who will continue to pay the price for Hamas' prolonged terror rule will be, as always, the Palestinians themselves.
Sefi Kedmi is the founder and CEO of Sphinx Research, a global research firm.
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