A Staggering New Estimate of Over 186,000 Killings in Gaza Revives Charges of War Crimes — Global Issues



  • by Thalif Deen (united nations)
  • Inter Press Service

In recent conflicts, says the article, titled “Counting the Deaths in Gaza: Difficult but Essential”, indirect deaths range from three to 15 times the number of direct deaths.

“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,” according to The Lancet.

The disproportionate killings in Gaza are in retaliation to the 1,200 killed by Hamas inside Israel on October 7.

Dr. Simon Adams, President and CEO of the Center for Victims of Torture, the largest international organization that treats survivors and advocates for an end to torture worldwide, told IPS “since the beginning of this war, Israel’s military operations in Gaza have consistently violated the international legal principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution”.

The result has been incalculable civilian suffering in Gaza. It is impossible to have an accurate death toll when so many bodies are still under the rubble, or literally torn to pieces because Israel continues to conduct airstrikes on residential buildings, hospitals, and even UN schools where displaced and vulnerable civilians are sheltering, he pointed out.

“The Israeli government’s collective punishment of the Palestinian people is a war crime. Their actions have made it impossible to provide an accurate death toll. But I certainly trust The Lancet’s scientific rationale more than I trust any press release by the Israeli Defense Forces,” declared Dr Adams.

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), told IPS conflict-related mortality estimates are the standard methodology for determining actual deaths resulting from a war, and have sadly been all too accurate.

“If Israel continues its indiscriminate bombardment and starvation of the Palestinian people, we can expect the actual death figure to exceed 200,000, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of injured and traumatized people who will suffer for decades to come”, she declared.

Nihal Awad, National Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said:

“We have all known that the real death toll in the Israeli genocide in Gaza is much higher than has been reported. This new data by respected researchers adds yet another piece of evidence proving that a genocide is occurring in Gaza and necessitating international action to end the suffering and bring justice to the Palestinian people.”

This realistic death toll, he pointed out, is backed up by the new reports that Israeli forces are free to kill civilians and destroy homes at will, without any of the rules of engagement required by international law.

“The Biden administration – which is enabling the genocide, ethnic cleansing and forced starvation – must act to stop this growing horror.”

He said The Lancet figures – estimating almost eight percent of the Gaza population killed – would be equivalent to some 26 million Americans killed, or almost the entire population of Texas.

“President Biden and his administration have been supplying the weapons for Israel to commit this horrible genocide and have been obstructing any accountability for Israel,” said Awad.

Asked about the findings, UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said: “We were not involved, as far as I know, into this study. I think it is not a stretch of the imagination that the numbers are probably undercounted, given the fact that the debris and rubble is yet to be cleared. But whatever number we’re speaking about, it is tragic, overwhelming, and even hard to imagine”.

The Lancet says using the 2022 Gaza Strip population estimate of 2,?375,?259 would translate to 7·9% of the total population in the Gaza Strip.

A report from Feb 7, 2024, at the time when the direct death toll was 28,?000, estimated that without a ceasefire there would be between 58,?260 deaths (without an epidemic or escalation) and 85,?750 deaths (if both occurred) by Aug 6, 2024, says the Lancet, which has extremely high standards for its research papers.

Armed conflicts, The Lancet says, have indirect health implications beyond the direct harm from violence. 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 total death toll is expected to be large given the intensity of this conflict; destroyed health-care infrastructure; severe shortages of food, water, and shelter; the population’s inability to flee to safe places; and the loss of funding to UNRWA, one of the very few humanitarian organisations still active in the Gaza Strip.

An immediate and urgent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip is essential, accompanied by measures to enable the distribution of medical supplies, food, clean water, and other resources for basic human needs.

At the same time, there is a need to record the scale and nature of suffering in this conflict. 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 interim measures set out by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in January, 2024, require 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”.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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© Inter Press Service (2024) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service



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