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Researchers Estimate True Gaza Death Toll at 186,000 or More

The official death toll is currently just over 38,000, but it is impossible for officials to do a full accounting.

People walk past rubble and damaged buildings in the Tuffah district east of Gaza City on July 8, 2024.

Public health experts have estimated that the true death toll in Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza could be five times higher than the official toll reported by Palestinian officials — a chilling figure that they say is, in fact, a conservative estimate based on historical death tolls in times of conflict.

In a letter published on Friday in prestigious medical journal The Lancet, the researchers said that the current death toll in Gaza could be 186,000 or more. This amounts to roughly 8 percent of Gaza’s population before October.

The experts calculated the figure based on widely-cited UN research determining that, in recent decades, conflicts often see a ratio of between 3 and 15 times the number of “direct deaths,” or deaths caused by direct violence, and indirect deaths, or deaths caused by related factors; in the case of Israel’s genocide, these factors include Israel’s targeted destruction of health, food and sanitation infrastructure and its near-total blockade on humanitarian aid into Gaza.

“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,” the researchers said.

At the lower range of the estimates of indirect deaths, the death toll could be 114,000 Palestinians; at the upper range, Israel’s assault may have killed 570,000 Palestinians so far. The researchers note that the assault will continue to kill Palestinians long after it’s officially supposedly over, due to factors like communicable and non-communicable diseases.

The letter notes that the official death toll they cite is also likely an underestimation, due to the immense difficulty of counting deaths and the thousands of people who are trapped under the rubble and presumed dead. The researchers also note Israel’s responsibility to comply with international law and “take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts.”

Such a large estimate of the death toll is plausible considering that the death toll has been increasing at a steady rate over the past nine months even as factors like Israel’s famine and disease campaign have intensified; figures like the number of Palestinians trapped under the rubble have remained stagnant for months, even as Israel has bombarded more and more buildings each day.

Chillingly, the world may never know the full toll of Israel’s genocide — even direct deaths are essentially impossible to fully account for due to the fact that Israel’s violence and destruction is so widespread.

At the same time, Israel is continuing to escalate its ethnic cleansing and extermination campaign in Gaza, with no signs of stopping. Palestinians have reported that Sunday night was one of the worst nights in the last nine months so far, with heavy bombardments in the last 24 hours killing at least 40 people and injuring 75 more, after Israeli forces killed 54 people in the previous 24 hours, with dozens missing. Israeli forces have once again stepped up their bombardment of Gaza City and northern Gaza, as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to evacuate last week with nowhere left to go.

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