UN says total number of deaths in Gaza remains unchanged after controversy over revised data

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The United Nations on Monday clarified that the overall number of fatalities in Gaza tallied by the Ministry of Health in Gaza remains unchanged, at more than 35,000, since the war broke out between Israel and Hamas on October 7.

The clarification comes after the UN humanitarian agency OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) published a report on May 8 with revised data regarding the number of Palestinian casualties in the war. The UN agency in its report reduced the number of women and children believed to have been killed in the war by nearly half.

The number was reduced because the UN says it is now relying on the number of deceased women and children whose names and other identifying details have been fully documented, rather than the total number of women and children killed. The ministry says bodies that arrive at hospitals get counted in the overall death count.

UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told a daily briefing at the UN that the health ministry in Gaza recently published two separate death tolls – an overall death toll and a total number of identified fatalities. In the UN report, only the total number of fatalities whose identities (such as name and date of birth) have been documented was published, leading to confusion.

According to Haq, the ministry published a breakdown for 24,686 fully identified deaths out of the total 34,622 fatalities recorded in Gaza as of April 30. The fully identified death toll comprises of 7,797 children, 4,959 women, 1,924 elderly, and 10,006 men, the UN spokesperson said, citing the Gaza health ministry.

The health authority in Gaza noted that the documentation process of casualties’ full identification details is still ongoing, Haq added.

The total number of dead also does not include the approximately 10,000 people who are still missing and trapped under the rubble, the officials added.

Israel launched its military assault on Gaza on October 7 after the militant group Hamas, which governs Gaza, killed at least 1,200 people in Israel and abducted more than 250 others. Israel’s months-long siege of the Palestinian enclave has since pulverized large parts of Gaza and drastically diminished critical supplies, exposing the entire population of more than 2.2 million people to the risk of famine.

Both the UN and US officials have previously appraised the figures from the Ministry of Health in Gaza as credible.

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