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Rights groups affirm Gaza death toll amid Biden’s ‘dehumanising’ scepticism

October 27, 2023 at 2:53 pm

A relative of a person who killed in Israeli attacks and brought to the morgue of the Nasser Hospital, mourns as Israeli airstrikes continue in the 19th day in Khan Yunis, Gaza on October 25, 2023. [Belal Khaled – Anadolu Agency]

Remarks by President Joe Biden expressing scepticism about the rising death toll in Gaza have drawn outrage from human rights groups and accusations of further dehumanising Palestinians.

Human Rights Watch has strongly rejected claims that the death toll released by the Gaza Health Ministry cannot be trusted, following comments by Israel and the US President.

“I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed. I’m sure innocents have been killed, and it’s the price of waging a war,” Biden said yesterday. “But I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.”

Biden made his comments after Gaza’s Health Ministry said the Israeli bombing of Gaza had killed 7,028 Palestinians, including 2,913 children, because of Israeli bombings. Scholars of genocide have called the campaign in the besieged enclave “a textbook case of genocide”.

Biden’s comments have been met with strong condemnation and highlighted as further evidence of the dehumanisation of Palestinians. “We have been monitoring human rights abuses in the Gaza Strip for three decades, including several rounds of hostilities. We’ve generally found the data that comes out of the Ministry of Health to be reliable,” said Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch.

“When we have done our own independent investigations around particular strikes, and we’ve compared those figures against those from the Health Ministry, there haven’t been major deviations,” Shakir added.

Their numbers generally are consistent with what we’re seeing on the ground in recent days. There have been hundreds of airstrikes per day in one of the most densely populated areas of the world

“We’ve looked at satellite imagery. We’ve seen the number of buildings, and the numbers that are coming out are in line with what we would expect with what we’re seeing on the ground. So you put all those things together and we’re quite confident in the overall casualty numbers.”

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An UN official, who declined to be publicly identified, told the Guardian that his Agency had used and checked Gaza Health Ministry data for years and that they have confidence in the data provided by the Ministry.

“I have seen nothing that says to me they are making the numbers up. We looked at some of the Israeli bombings and the numbers of deaths the Ministry is claiming for a particular attack are broadly in line with what we have seen in previous wars,” the official is reported saying.

In a move to head off allegations of fabrication, the Gaza’s Health Ministry issued a 212-page list of the names and identity numbers of every Palestinian it says has been killed in the Israeli bombardment.

President Biden’s questioning of the death toll follows a pattern of Western media and leaders downplaying Palestinian loss of life. Critics accuse them of dehumanising victims and tacitly justifying Israel’s actions.

“President Biden should watch some of these videos and ask himself if the crushed children being dragged out of the ruins of their family homes are a fabrication or an acceptable price of war. They are neither,” said The Council on American-Islamic Relations, while calling on Biden to apologise for his “shocking and dehumanising” remarks.