Health officials in Gaza have told The Associated Press that it’s become impossible to count the dead due to a breakdown of communications and the presence of Israeli forces on the ground in northern Gaza.
The last official update from the Health Ministry based in Gaza was released on November 10, putting the figure at 11,078. Al Jazeera reported on Tuesday that according to Gaza’s media office, the current death toll is somewhere over 13,300, including over 5,600 children, but the number is not confirmed.
“Unfortunately, the Ministry of Health has not yet been able to issue its statistics because there is a breakdown in communication between hospitals and disruption to the internet,” said Gaza’s Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra. He added that the electronic database used to count the dead “is no longer able to count the names and tally the statistics.”
President Biden previously accused Gaza’s Health Ministry of lying about the death toll, but a State Department official later said that their numbers are likely low estimates, and that was before communications entirely broke down. The UN and aid groups that work on the ground in Gaza have also said the Health Ministry is considered reliable.
Gaza’s Health Ministry would release death toll numbers based on the number of dead bodies recorded at hospitals and morgues, a meticulous process. After Biden questioned the numbers, the Health Ministry released the names and ages of all the dead Palestinians it had counted up to that point.
The death toll was considered low before because it didn’t take into account the bodies stuck under the rubble, a problem that has worsened. According to AP, Palestinian medics say, “It’s far too dangerous now to recover the untold scores of dead bodies in Gaza City, where Israeli bulldozers have blocked streets and tanks fire at anything in their path.”
Health Ministry officials believe the death toll has risen significantly since November 10 based on doctors’ estimates and people reporting missing family members. “People are thrown in the streets. They’re under the rubble. Who can count the bodies and release the death toll in a press conference?” said Health Ministry official Mehdat Abbas.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank has also put out the 13,300 number, but Gaza officials say it can’t be verified. “If someone is sitting in an air-conditioned office, he can say whatever he wants,” Abbas said. “But if you come to the field here, no one can work between tanks to count how many people are killed.”