‘not-implausible’-–-the-lancet-estimates-gaza-death-toll-could-be-186,000-or-more

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

“Even if the conflict ends immediately, there will continue to be many indirect deaths in the coming months and years from causes such as reproductive, communicable, and non-communicable diseases.”

The death toll in the besieged Gaza Strip could be as high as 186,000 or even more, according to the leading medical journal The Lancet.

“Applying a conservative estimate of four indirect deaths per one direct death to the 37 396 deaths reported, it is not implausible to estimate that up to 186 000 or even more deaths could be attributable to the current conflict in Gaza,” the peer-reviewed journal stated in a report published on July 5.

It said that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had reported that the Gaza Health Ministry had, by June 19, recorded 37,396 people killed since Israel’s military assault on the enclave began on October 7.

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Though the Israeli authorities have contested the figures, “they have been accepted as accurate by Israeli intelligence services, the UN, and WHO,” the Lancet said.

“These data are supported by independent analyses, comparing changes in the number of deaths of UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) staff with those reported by the Ministry, which found claims of data fabrication implausible,” the journal stated.

Difficulty in Data Collection

It noted that collecting data “is becoming increasingly difficult for the Gaza Health Ministry due to the destruction of much of the infrastructure.”

The Ministry “has had to augment its usual reporting, based on people dying in its hospitals or brought in dead, with information from reliable media sources and first responders.”

This change, the Lancet emphasized, has inevitably degraded the detailed data recorded previously.

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Consequently, the Gaza Health Ministry now reports separately the number of unidentified bodies in the total death toll. “As of May 10, 2024, 30% of the 35 091 deaths were unidentified,” it said.

Some officials and news agencies have used this development, designed to improve data quality, “to undermine the veracity of the data,” the journal said. “However, the number of reported deaths is likely an underestimate.”

It mentioned the non-governmental organization Airwars which undertakes detailed assessments of incidents in Gaza and “often finds that not all names of identifiable victims are included in the Ministry’s list.”

Indirect Deaths

Furthermore, the Lancet said, the UN estimates that by Feb 29, 2024, 35% of buildings in the Gaza Strip had been destroyed, “so the number of bodies still buried in the rubble is likely substantial, with estimates of more than 10 000.”

Armed conflicts, it said, have indirect health implications beyond the direct harm from violence.

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“Even if the conflict ends immediately, there will continue to be many indirect deaths in the coming months and years from causes such as reproductive, communicable, and non-communicable diseases,” the journal stated.

The Lancet said “an immediate and urgent ceasefire” in Gaza is essential, “along with the measures to enable the distribution of medical supplies, food, clean water, and other resources for basic human needs.”

ICJ Order

At the same time, it said, there is “a need to record the scale and nature of suffering in this conflict.”

Highlighting the interim measures set out by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in January 2024, the Lancet said “Documenting the true scale is crucial for ensuring historical accountability and acknowledging the full cost of the war. It is also a legal requirement.”

The ICJ ordered Israel to “take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of … the Genocide Convention”.

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“The Gaza Health Ministry is the only organization counting the dead. Furthermore, these data will be crucial for post-war recovery, restoring infrastructure, and planning humanitarian aid,” the journal said.

Forceful Displacement

Currently on trial before the International Court of Justice for genocide against Palestinians, Israel has been waging a devastating war on Gaza since October 7.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 38,098 Palestinians have been killed, and 87,705 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.

Moreover, at least 11,000 people are unaccounted for, presumed dead under the rubble of their homes throughout the Strip.

Israel says that 1,200 soldiers and civilians were killed during the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation on October 7. Israeli media published reports suggesting that many Israelis were killed on that day by ‘friendly fire’.

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Palestinian and international organizations say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

The Israeli war has resulted in an acute famine, mostly in northern Gaza, resulting in the death of many Palestinians, mostly children.

The Israeli aggression has also resulted in the forceful displacement of nearly two million people from all over the Gaza Strip, with the vast majority of the displaced forced into the densely crowded southern city of Rafah near the border with Egypt – in what has become Palestine’s largest mass exodus since the 1948 Nakba.

Later in the war, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians began moving from the south to central Gaza in a constant search for safety.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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