UN confirms Gaza death toll is mostly women and children

Women and children make up at least 56% of those killed by Israel’s war in Gaza [Getty]

Women and children make up at least 56 percent of the thousands killed in the Gaza war, the UN said Tuesday, as Israel supporters tried to cast doubt over figures from the health ministry in Gaza.

UN agencies have since the beginning of the Gaza war in October relied on death tolls provided by the health ministry in the besieged territory.

The health ministry said Tuesday that at least 35,173 people have been killed in the territory due to Israeli military attacks since the war erupted.

The United Nations says the ministry’s tolls before the current war were deemed reliable, and that it will strive to verify the figures “when conditions permit”.

Gaza authorities have consistently said women and children make up a majority of those killed in the Palestinian territory.

Israel has denied this however and accused the UN of “parroting of Hamas’s propaganda messages without the use of any verification process”.

“They are not accurate and they do not reflect the reality on the ground,” spokesperson for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Oren Marmostein said.

“Anyone who relies on fake data from a terrorist organisation in order to promote blood libels against Israel is antisemitic and supports terrorism,” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeted late Monday.

UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said that the world body was not disputing the Gaza health ministry’s numbers and that its estimate of casualties was “unchanged”.

He said both the UN and Gaza officials still believe more than 35,000 people have been killed since the war erupted.

As of 30 April, nearly 25,000 of those killed had been fully identified, with information missing for the remainder of the nearly 10,000 others who had died.

The breakdown of those deaths has changed now that 24,686 of the dead have been “fully identified”.

Of those fully identified, Haq said 40 percent were men, 20 percent women, and 32 percent children, while another eight percent were elderly – a category not broken down by gender.

“There’s about another 10,000 plus bodies who still have to be fully identified, and so then the details of those – which of those are children, which of those are women – that will be re-established once the full identification is complete,” Haq said.

“The Ministry of Health says that the documentation process of fully identifying details of the casualties is ongoing.”

The UN has firmly reiterated the legitimacy of the estimates on the Gaza war, and Haq added that death toll tallies from previous wars and conflicts which have taken place every few years in the devastated enclave have “proven to be generally accurate”.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier on Tuesday said the new breakdown was “the most comprehensive” provided to date.

He told reporters in Geneva that by applying the same ratio to the unidentified and assuming women represent half of the elderly, it could be expected that at least “56 percent women and children” made up the more than 35,000 dead.

This did not take into consideration the likelihood that more women and children were likely to be among the thousands believed to still be under the rubble “because they are the ones typically staying at home”, he said.

So from a “minimum statistical calculation”, he said, “you come to 60 percent women and children”.

Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, said the new breakdown did not contradict previous estimates that women and children made up more than two-thirds of those killed.

What had been provided by the health ministry now was simply “more detail about a sub-section of the overall tally of 35,000 deaths”, he said. “These are not mutually exclusive.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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