President Biden on Wednesday accused Palestinians in Gaza of lying about the civilian casualty rate when confronted about the massive number of child casualties in Israel’s bombardment.
According to the latest numbers from Gaza’s Health Ministry, over 6,500 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s onslaught, including more than 2,700 children. A reporter asked Biden if the figures demonstrate that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ignoring US calls to minimize civilian casualties.
“What they say to me is 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. The president added that Israel should be “incredibly careful” to go after Hamas and said he has “no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.”
The US and Israel have begun to cast doubt on the casualty rates coming from Gaza’s Health Ministry because the enclave is ruled by Hamas. But, according to a report from The Washington Post, many experts consider the numbers to be reliable.
“Everyone uses the figures from the Gaza Health Ministry because those are generally proven to be reliable,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch. “In the times in which we have done our own verification of numbers for particular strikes, I’m not aware of any time which there’s been some major discrepancy.”
Shakir made similar comments to Al Jazeera and said the current numbers are believable based on the massive number of airstrikes Israel is unleashing on Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on earth. “We’ve been looking at satellite imagery. We’ve been looking at what’s taking place. The numbers coming out of the ministry are not beyond reason,” he said. “They’re within the range of what one would expect from air strikes of this intensity.”
While US officials are casting doubt on the numbers coming out of Gaza, they have also shrugged off the civilian casualties, framing them as a cost of modern war. “This is war. It is combat. It is bloody, ugly and it’s going to be messy and innocent civilians are going to be hurt going forward,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday.