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How Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry counted 10,000 war dead

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip announced on Monday that the death toll from Israel’s ongoing bombardment of the Palestinian enclave had exceeded 10,000 people. Israel launched a devastating aerial campaign, followed by a siege and later a ground invasion in reprisal for the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, the deadliest in the country’s history. Israel’s leaders have said they are determined to eradicate the Islamist movement that has controlled Gaza since 2007. More than 1,400 people were killed in the surprise attack, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities. The 10,022 deaths in the Gaza Strip were announced in a press conference by a health ministry spokesman, Ashraf al-Qudra, on Monday, the 31st day of the war. He said that at least 292 Palestinians were killed overnight in intense Israeli bombing and accused them of “perpetrating 19 massacres in the last few hours”. The health ministry said the majority of the deaths since the start of the war have been civilians, including 4,000 children. The dead also include more than 2,600 women whilst more than 25,000 people have been injured, according to the ministry. – List of names – The validity of the numbers published by the ministry had been called into question by US President Joe Biden, who has been steadfast in supporting Israel and opposing a ceasefire. However Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder told journalists on Monday civilian casualty “numbers are in the thousands”. In an effort to prove the credibility of their figures, on October 26, the Gaza health ministry published a list of nearly 7,000 names, all people whom it said had been killed in the war up to that point. The list included the sex, age and identity number of each person killed. The ministry, which falls under Gaza’s Hamas government, said it published the record to “reveal to the whole world the details and the names so that they might know the truth”. It explained in an accompanying document that in governmental hospitals, which fall under Hamas’s governance, the personal information and ID number of each killed Palestinian is entered into a computerised database after the body arrives or after they succumb to their wounds. This data is then transmitted daily to the “central register of martyrs” at the health ministry. If the dead are taken to a private hospital, their personal information is recorded on a special form which is sent “within 24 hours” to the health ministry, which then adds the details to its central database. The ministry said that a dedicated information centre verifies the data provided by both types of hospitals before it is entered into the database to ensure it “does not contain duplicates or errors”. – Figures used by UN – At the end of October, AFP was able to observe the verification process in action in the morgue of Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza. A pathologist examined each body, took a photo and noted down the name and the location of the bombing in which the individual was killed. Based on the information provided by the pathologists, the patient management office filled out a form with the details of each “martyr” before entering the details into a digital database. On his computer, hospital director Nahed Abu Taaema displayed a programme listing “martyrs” — those killed in the conflict with Israel — in one tab and unrelated deaths in another. On October 27, the head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, said the death tolls published by the health ministry in previous conflicts had never been questioned. The figures published by the ministry are also used by the World Health Organisation for its reports on the Palestinian Territories.

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