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Gaza Is No Longer Equipped to Count Its Dead

State of the Union: Mounting infrastructural devastation in Gaza has made their official death toll blurry.

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Palestinian health authorities have said they are now unable to count the number of residents dying due to the massive destruction of infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, including hospitals.

On April 28, the Wall Street Journal reported that, although health officials in Gaza contend that the death toll has indeed surpassed 34,000, difficulties in gathering data have prevented them from obtaining a precise count.


Medhat Abbas, a spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, told the Journal, “At the beginning we had systems, we had hospitals…. The Civil Defense teams were able to get people who were stuck under the rubble. Then the whole system collapsed.” 

Western sources estimate that thousands of people are stuck beneath destroyed buildings or buried in shallow, unmarked graves throughout the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have said that they do not have sufficient tools to clean up the rubble, so they are forced to leave the bodies there until a ceasefire or the end of the war.

Additionally, so many hospitals have been destroyed that the ones still standing are unable to even process the dead and identify them. Health officials say their priority is those who come in injured. Zaher Sahloul, a Chicago-based critical-care doctor who spent time in Khan Younis earlier this year, said, “The priority was to treat the injured, to make sure the living had a chance to live…. The dead were the last priority.”

In the meantime, Gazan authorities are relying on the reported testimony of families and friends to estimate who has died. Additionally, an online forum has been established for people to report deaths of their loved ones; this has proven unreliable, as internet access in Gaza is intermittent. Thus, over 10,000 dead have yet to be identified, while some deaths have not been reported at all.

The Biden White House is purportedly working to negotiate a ceasefire; U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in talks with leaders at Riyadh this week to figure out a way forward.

This latest report may fuel pro-Palestinian Americans’ anger against President Biden and his perceived lack of support for Gaza.