Israel’s Netanyahu says militants make up about half of Gaza deaths

Jerusalem — Israel’s prime minister said on a podcast that almost half of those killed in the Gaza war are Hamas fighters, again addressing a civilian toll that has sparked global outrage. Benjamin Netanyahu maintained the overall toll is lower than that given by authorities in the Palestinian territory.

According to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, at least 35,091 people have been killed in the territory during more than seven months of war between Israel and Palestinian militants.

Last week, the United Nations changed its estimate of the number of women and children believed to be among the civilians killed in the Palestinian territory, shifting from figures previously provided by the Hamas government in Gaza to numbers stated by the enclave’s health ministry.

According to the ministry’s figures, which have been cited by the U.N. since May 10, about 13,000 women and children have been killed in Gaza since the war began on Oct. 7, when Israel launched its strikes against Hamas in retaliation for the group’s terrorist attack.

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The estimate is significantly lower than the figures provided by the Hamas administration in Gaza and previously cited by the U.N., which had said almost 24,000 of those killed were believed to be women and children.

Speaking Sunday on the “Call Me Back” podcast, Netanyahu said the death toll in Gaza was around 30,000, and that Hamas fighters accounted for nearly half of that toll. He insisted to podcaster Dan Senor that Israel had “been able to keep the ratio of civilians to combatants killed… (to) a ratio of about one to one.”

“Fourteen thousand have been killed, combatants, and probably around 16,000 civilians have been killed,” he said. He gave similar figures in March during an interview with Politico, at a time when Gaza’s health ministry was reporting a toll of at least 31,045, and again in an interview with Dr. Phil in early May.

U.S., Israel relationship gets tense over Rafah approach


Neither Israel nor Hamas have provided evidence to show how they reach their respective death toll estimates. The Hamas-run Gazan administration and health ministry do not differentiate between civilian and combatant casualties in their war tallies.

The U.N. and a long list of countries, including the U.S., have voiced alarm at the number of civilian deaths in Gaza. United Nations rights chief Volker Turk warned in a statement last month that children especially were “disproportionately paying the ultimate price in this war.”

Netanyahu’s latest comment came amid intensified pressure from Israel’s chief military supplier, the U.S., over the Palestinian toll from the war. Washington paused delivery of 3,500 bombs, and President Biden warned he would stop supplying artillery shells and other weapons if Israel carries out a full-scale invasion of Rafah, where around one million people are sheltering.

Aftermath of Israeli Airstrike in Gaza, Palestine
Palestinians search for casualties at the site of an Israeli airstrike on a house, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas militant group, in Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza, May 14, 2024.

Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Getty

A U.S. State Department report said Friday that it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel has used American arms in ways inconsistent with standards on humanitarian rights but that the United States could not reach “conclusive findings.”

The war in Gaza was sparked by Hamas’ unprecedented Oct. 7 terrorist attack, which saw the militants kill some 1,200 people and take about 240 others hostage. About 100 of those captives are still believed to be alive and held in Gaza. Israeli officials believe more than 30 others are dead, but their bodies are still being held.

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