By Dave DeCamp / Antiwar.com
A senior US official said that the death toll caused by Israel’s assault on Gaza is likely far higher than the over 10,000 number being reported by Gaza’s Health Ministry, The Hill reported on Thursday.
The comments were made by Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and break from President Biden’s claim that the numbers from Gaza’s Health Ministry can’t be trusted.
“In this period of conflict and conditions of war, it is very difficult for any of us to assess what the rate of casualties are,” Leaf told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “We think they’re very high, frankly, and it could be that they’re even higher than are being cited.”
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“We’ll know only after the guns fall silent. We take in sourcing from a variety of folks who are on the ground,” she added. “I can’t stipulate to one figure or another, it’s very possible they’re even higher than is being reported.”
Gaza’s Health Ministry reported on Thursday that at least 10,569 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7. The total includes 4,324 children. Thousands of Palestinians are also missing and presumed to be under the rubble.
After Biden accused the Palestinians of lying about the death toll, the UN and aid groups that have experience in Gaza backed the numbers coming from Gaza’s Health Ministry, saying they’re reliable. An Israeli security source told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot that Israel has killed around 20,000 Palestinians, but the number has not been backed up by another source.
While casting doubt on the death toll, the White House has also acknowledged there is a massive civilian casualty rate in the US-backed onslaught. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby acknowledged on Monday that the Israeli bombardment has killed “many, many thousands of innocent people.” The US is still providing Israel with unconditional military support, including near-daily weapons shipments.
Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.