Gabriel Epstein is a research assistant in The Washington Institute's Koret Project on Arab-Israel Relations.
International media and NGOs have repeated the group's figures without caveats, giving credence to suspicions of Israeli misconduct and fueling accusations of war crimes and even genocide.
The Hamas-Israel war has produced undeniable devastation across the Gaza Strip. But since the terrorist group carried out its attack on October 7, questions have emerged about the reliability of fatality numbers reported by the Hamas-run Ministry of Health and associated entities. Principal concerns include the group’s failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants, its apparent understatement of fatalities for fighting-age men, and an associated overemphasis on women and children’s deaths. Hamas has extraordinary incentives to skew the numbers in this way, and international media and NGOs have repeated its figures without caveats, giving credence to suspicions of Israeli misconduct and fueling accusations of war crimes and even genocide.
In this Policy Note, Gabriel Epstein tracks Gaza fatality reporting since the war began to reveal how Hamas statistics are inconsistent, imprecise, and systematically manipulated to downplay the number of men and militants killed. He makes clear that without a better sense of the breakdown of Gaza fatalities—whatever the total number—one cannot issue definitive judgments about the character of Israel’s military campaign.