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U.S. Defense Dept. Undercuts Israeli, Hamas Death Toll Figure

IDF claims it has killed 10,000 Hamas militants, though no evidence has been provided

U.S. Defense Dept. Undercuts Israeli, Hamas Death Toll Figure

In a disclosure that sharply diverges from the Israeli government's published casualty figures, the U.S. Department of Defense has suggested the number of Hamas fighters killed is substantially less than what has been reported.

During a congressional hearing this week, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said there have been “over 25,000” Palestinian women and children killed by Israel in its military response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attack.

This figure contradicts the Israeli narrative, suggesting a significant underreporting of civilian casualties and an overestimation of Hamas fighters killed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The Pentagon later sought to walk back Austin’s remarks, indicating that the numbers referred to the total casualties and emphasizing the department's inability to independently verify these figures.

As reported this week, 30,035 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel’s military campaign began in October, with 70 percent of the victims being women and children. The death toll comes from the Palestinian Ministry of Health (PMH) and excludes individuals buried beneath the debris of collapsed structures, suspected to be dead.

Estimates factor in persons suspected to have been killed, but whose bodies have not yet been discovered, placing the total death toll at 38,066, with 34,570 fatalities being civilian deaths.

Though some have attempted to cast doubt on the Health Ministry’s reported fatality count because it is run by Hamas, an investigative report into the accuracy of the numbers determined that the Israeli military considers the PMH death count “totally reliable.”

Though Israeli forces claim they have killed 10,000 Hamas militants, no evidence or detailed information has yet been presented to substantiate this number.

If Austin’s congressional testimony is correct, it suggests that at best, a mere 5,000 or so Hamas fighters have been killed in the five-month military campaign.

Other investigative reports have produced fatality estimates substantially lower than what the IDF has publicly stated.

Austin’s comments come amid continued scrutiny over Israel’s civilian-to-combatant kill ratio, allegations it is intentionally targeting civilians, and multiple cases brought against it this year at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

In one case, the ICJ held hearings on whether Israel is carrying out a genocide as defined by the 1948 Genocide Convention, to which Israel and the U.S. are signatories. In a separate case, dozens of countries presented exhaustive evidence of Israel’s numerous violations of international law in its illegal occupation of Palestine, while asking the ICJ what legal pathways are available to address ongoing violations.

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