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‘Associated Press’ blasts own reporting on Hamas casualty statistics

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Hamas’s false numbers are widely repeated in the news media, as well as by U.N. and U.S. officials, including U.S. President Joe Biden in his State of the Union address.

By Andrew Bernard, JNS

The Associated Press released a report on Friday undercutting its own reporting of Hamas’s claim that more than two-thirds of the Palestinian casualties in Gaza have been women and children.

According to the AP’s new analysis of Hamas’s figures, the terror group’s “detailed reports” of casualty statistics reveal a much lower number of likely civilian casualties than Hamas claims.

“Among those fully identified, the records show a steady decline in the overall proportion of women and children who have been killed: from 64% in late October, to 62% as of early January, to 57% by the end of March, to 54% by the end of April,” the report says. “Yet throughout the war, the ministry has claimed that roughly two-thirds of the dead were women and children.”

“This figure has been repeated by international organizations and many in the foreign media, including the AP,” the report adds.

David Adesnik, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JNS that the scrutiny of Hamas’s false claims about its own numbers is long overdue.

“It’s a pretty stunning admission,” Adesnik said. “It’s probably not going to compensate for them repeating for months after months, time after time that 70% of the victims were women and children, but I guess better late than never.”

Hamas issues multiple types of claims about casualty statistics in Gaza. The Hamas-run health ministry issues both daily casualty tolls without supporting data identifying the individuals as well as what the AP describes as “detailed reports,” issued irregularly, that claim to list and identify individual casualties.

Hamas’s media office also issues separate, higher claims of Palestinian casualties in Gaza, which are likewise widely repeated in news reports, by human-rights groups and others.

The percentage of women and children killed is used as a rough approximation of the number of civilians killed, even though Hamas recruits women and children, and not all adult men are members of Hamas.

The terror group also does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its data, or between those killed in Israeli strikes and the substantial number of Palestinians who have been killed by Palestinian rockets that land inside the Gaza Strip.

According to the AP’s analysis, Hamas’s repeated claims that more than two-thirds of the casualties in Gaza are women and children are increasingly out of step with its own figures.

“By the end of October, women and people 17 and younger accounted for 64% of the 6,745 killed who were fully identified by the Health Ministry,” the report says.

“As the intensity of fighting has scaled back, the death toll has continued to rise, but at a slower rate – and with seemingly fewer civilians caught in the crossfire. In April, women and children made up 38% of the newly and fully identified deaths, the Health Ministry’s most recent data shows.”

Despite the trend, Hamas claimed in February and March that women and children made up more than 70% of the casualties in Gaza, a level that the AP notes “was never confirmed in the detailed reports” and claimed by Hamas “even as underlying data clearly showed the percentage was well below that.”

The AP, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious wire services, says its reporting is viewed daily by 4 billion people. It continued to tout the two-thirds claim made by the ministry as recently as early May.

‘Hamas has everyone on a short leash’

Reports by Hamas on civilian casualties in Gaza are widely repeated in the news media, as well as by U.N. and U.S. officials, including U.S. President Joe Biden, who appeared to cite the Hamas-run health ministry’s death toll during his State of the Union address in March.

Defenders of the terror group’s statistics regarding Palestinian casualties argue that the health ministry’s past claims have ended up broadly comporting with Israeli and independent United Nations assessments.

In past operations in Gaza, however, the Gaza health ministry purported to distribute data it collected from Palestinian hospitals, whereas in the course of the current war, as Hamas began losing control of medical facilities, it has relied since November on what it calls “reliable media sources” to collect its data about casualties.

Adesnik told JNS that while the AP report reveals Hamas’s falsehoods about its own numbers, it does not explore why that methodology casts greater doubt on the accuracy of what Hamas claims in this conflict compared with past rounds of fighting.

“It really doesn’t talk about how many of the fatalities in the Ministry of Health death toll are based on supposedly ‘reliable media sources’—not hospital reporting or something more reliable,” Adesnik said. “I think that would be one of the biggest things that would really damage the credibility of the Ministry of Health.”

“In the first quarter of 2024—January, February, March—75% of the new deaths were supposedly gleaned from these media,” he added. “They’ve never said what these media are or why we should believe they’re credible. I don’t know what credible independent media they’re relying on in Gaza, where, of course, Hamas has everyone on a short leash. And the media were remarkably credulous about this.”

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