How does Hamas count those who have been killed in the Israel-Gaza conflict?

The number of people to have been killed in Gaza over the last month now stands at more than 11,000, according to officials in Gaza.

This figure has been the subject of much debate because it's released by the Gazan Ministry of Health, which is run by Hamas - the governing body in Gaza.

It has led some, including President Joe Biden, to suggest it might be an exaggerated figure.

"I have no notion whether Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed, I'm sure innocents have been killed and it's a price of waging a war..." Biden said two weeks ago.

But this past week, the US assistant secretary of state for near Eastern affairs, Barbara Leaf, told politicians on Capitol Hill that the number to have been killed could actually be higher.

"We think they are very high, frankly, and it could be that they are even higher than are being cited," she said.

Examination of data from previous Gaza conflicts - the Hamas-run health ministry's counts compared with the post-war United Nations analysis - shows that the initial data is broadly accurate with, at most, a 10-12% discrepancy:

  • 2008 war: The Gaza Health ministry reported 1,440 Palestinians killed; the UN reported 1,385

  • 2014 war: The Gaza Health ministry reported 2,310 Palestinians killed; the UN reported 2,251

  • 2021 war: The Gaza Health ministry reported 260 Palestinians killed; the UN reported 256

The Ministry of Health in Gaza is a body of civil servants. The data is collected by hospital staff as casualties arrive. The data is ultimately also confirmed by the MoH in Ramallah, which is not run by Hamas.

More clarity is needed on how many of those killed were armed militants fighting for Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The Health Ministry does not record how people were killed. They are all reported as victims of the "Israeli aggression".

Israel-Gaza latest: Injured Palestinians cross border into Egypt

The Israeli military says they killed 1,500 Hamas fighters during the 7 October massacre. The Israeli government believes that number is included in the Hamas toll.

Eylon Levy, an Israeli government spokesman, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, this weekend: "Hamas' death toll (no reason to accept at face value anyway) includes: The terrorists who did October 7, people killed from its own misfiring rockets (everyone at Al Ahli!) [the hospital which was hit two weeks ago], everyone it told not to evacuate / stopped from evacuating after Israel urged them to leave for safety."

More than half of casualties are women and children, say Hamas

We do not know how many Palestinian combatants have been killed since the Israeli bombardment and ground invasion began.

The IDF has reported numbers in the scores on a day-to-day basis in the ground invasion and it said on Saturday that Israeli troops had "killed 150 Hamas terrorists" in a single battle.

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Estimates for the total number of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad combatants varies widely from 15,000 and 50,000. The variance is likely to be because they range from elite militant units to a less structured group of combatants.

Based on a 212-page Hamas database published after President Biden's comments, the demographic of the dead showed more than half were women and children.

In a news conference this past week, announcing that the total killed had reached 10,000, Health Ministry authorities said more than 2,600 were women, more than 4,000 were children and more than 25,000 people have been injured.

More than 2,000 have been reported missing.