Updated Nov 27, 2023 - World

Gaza civilian deaths outpacing those of other conflict zones

girl walks among rubble in Gaza

A Palestinian girl walks amid the wreckage of buildings in Khan Yunis, Gaza on Nov. 26. Photo: Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images

The rate of civilian deaths in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war is outpacing those of other conflict zones in the 21st century.

The big picture: Mounting casualties have been accompanied by a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the enclave, even as aid trucks have begun entering the territory.

  • "Seven weeks of hostilities in Gaza and Israel have taken an appalling toll that has shocked the world," UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement Monday.
  • At least 14,800 Palestinians — mostly women and children —  in Gaza have been killed, per the Ministry of Health in Hamas-run Gaza.
  • Israel's death toll from the Oct. 7 Hamas attack stands at 1,200, according to Israeli officials. The majority were civilians.

Context: Civilians are being killed in Gaza more quickly "than in even the deadliest moments of U.S.-led attacks in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, which were themselves widely criticized by human rights groups," experts told the New York Times.

  • In less than two months' time, the Gaza death toll has already outstripped the more than 12,000 civilians killed in Iraq in 2003, according to figures from the Iraq Body Count. Only six years — 2005 through 2007, 2014 and 2014 through 2016 — have a larger number of deaths than in Gaza.
  • In the battle to recapture the Syrian city of Raqqa from ISIS between June and Oct. 2017, U.S.-led coalition forces killed over 1,600 civilians, according to a 2019 report from Amnesty International and Airwars. The estimate did not match the figures from the coalition, which estimated the count was much lower.
  • Israel has drawn comparisons between its campaign in Gaza to the effort to root out ISIS from Mosul from 2016 to 2017. American military officers have also shared lessons the U.S. learned from Mosul with Israeli military leadership.
  • Yet the civilian death toll during the nine-month battle for Mosul numbered between 9,000 and 11,000, AP reported.

Zoom in: About 6,000 Palestinian children are among those killed since Oct. 7, per the Ministry of Health. This is greater than the yearly global totals for children killed in conflict zones for the past three years, as tallied by the UN.

  • Last year, 2,985 children were killed in total among all the world's major conflict zones, according to a UN annual report on children and armed conflict issued in June.
  • The 2022 annual report said a total of 2,515 children were killed in conflict zones in 2021. The 2021 annual report noted that 2,674 children were killed across the world's conflict zones in 2020.

Israel has repeatedly claimed it is taking pains to limit civilian casualties, pointing to its evacuation warnings. Many civilians in Gaza have said they had nowhere to flee when told to do so.

  • This point was reiterated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday during a live chat on X with Elon Musk, who said Israel seeks to minimize civilian casualties.
  • There are "accidental civilian casualties that accompany any legitimate military action ... it's unavoidable, unfortunately," Netanyahu said.

Zoom out: Last week, Israel and Hamas reached an agreement for a four-day pause in fighting to secure the release of hostages captured by Hamas during its Oct. 7 attack.

  • The Qatari Foreign Ministry and Hamas announced Monday that a deal had been reached to extend the pause by another two days.
  • While the recent pause in fighting allowed the UN to increase its humanitarian aid deliveries, "this aid barely registers against the huge needs of 1.7 million displaced people," Dujarric said Monday.
  • "The humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is getting worse by the day," he added.
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