Gaza death toll could be five times higher – study

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When disease and hunger are taken into account, researchers have argued that the conflict could claim nearly 200,000 Palestinian lives

The true death toll in Gaza could exceed 186,000, five times higher than the 37,396 reported last month by the enclave’s health authorities, according to a new study published in The Lancet medical journal.

As of June 19, Israel’s war on Hamas had killed 37 396 people in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. While the Israeli government has long disputed the ministry’s figures, they are accepted as reliable by the UN, and quietly acknowledged to be true by the Israeli military.

According to a team of British, American, and Canadian researchers, this figure could swell to 186,000 when “ indirect deaths” are counted. “Indirect deaths,” they wrote in an article published last week, include those killed by disease, hunger, thirst, and exposure.

“In recent conflicts, such indirect deaths range from three to 15 times the number of direct deaths,” the article read. “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.” 

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With the population of Gaza around 2.3 million before the conflict began, such a death toll translates to the enclave losing between 7% and 9% of its population.

“An immediate and urgent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip is essential, accompanied by measures to enable the distribution of medical supplies, food, clean water, and other resources for basic human needs,” the authors argued, adding that Israel is required by the International Court of Justice to document and preserve evidence that could implicate it in genocide.

After nine months of fighting, Israel has come under intense international pressure to halt its military campaign in Gaza. While Hamas has accepted a US-sponsored ceasefire proposal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Sunday that any potential deal must allow Israel to resume fighting until all of its war objectives – which include the destruction of Hamas’ military capabilities – are met.

While Hamas and Israel both agree that a deal would allow the phased exchange of Israeli hostages in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, the Palestinian militant group wants written guarantees from international mediators that Israel will continue to negotiate a permanent ceasefire when the first phase of the agreement comes into effect. 

Talks mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the US have so far failed to secure a truce in Gaza or the release of hostages since a weeklong ceasefire in November resulting in the freeing of 105 hostages from Gaza and 240 Palestinian prisoners.

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