Are Hamas’s casualty numbers reliable?

No, but that has not stopped Biden and the media from using them.

Written by Jack Elbaum

What’s happening: A new data analysis done by a Wharton School of Business Professor of Statistics suggests the casualty numbers Hamas releases are not credible.

  • Why it matters: The numbers are commonly cited as fact by mainstream media outlets, as well as President Joe Biden.

The details: The analysis finds Hamas’s statistics diverge significantly from what is expected in a naturally-occurring set of numbers. There is far too little variation in daily casualty numbers and no relationship between the number of women, men, and children supposedly killed on a given day.

  • Also: There were two days in which Hamas recorded the number of women and children casualties as being greater than the total number of casualties, which is impossible.

Implication: The Wharton professor’s analysis suggests Hamas decided it would report a consistent number of casualties each day and then randomly assign the number of women, children, and men killed so it would add up to that total.

  • Important: More than anything else, this casts serious doubt on Hamas’s claim that 70 percent of casualties have been women and children. They report just 20 percent of casualties have been Hamas fighters, meaning only 10 percent of deaths are non-combatant men — which is exceedingly unlikely.

  • Incentives: Many in the West unquestioningly accept Hamas’s reported casualty numbers, which arouse sympathy and incite condemnation of Israel, incentivizing Hamas to continue putting out inflated death tolls of women and children.

At the same time: Israel has not meaningfully disputed the total number of deaths — underscoring the significant toll the war has taken on Gaza as the humanitarian crisis continues to deteriorate.