President Joe Biden’s administration has often stated its support for Israel in the wake of its war with Hamas. High numbers of civilians have been killed in the Middle Eastern country’s ongoing air and ground war. The White House has been evasive about the number of Palestinian casualties.
The Health Ministry in Gaza said on November 6 that over 10,000 Palestinians had been killed during the fighting. The ministry did not specify how many of the victims were members of Hamas, the main political party in Gaza that has been designated a terrorist group, and how many were simply citizens. By comparison, approximately 1,400 people in Israel died; most of them lost their lives in the October 7 terrorist incident.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council (NSC), was asked by reporters the next day to provide an estimate of the number of Palestinian casualties in Gaza since the conflict broke out. According to The Hill, he stated that the United States government does not “have an exact figure” because they “don’t have the capacity and capability to provide” the media with such information. Although he made it apparent that the United States did not accept the Ministry of Health’s estimate at face value, he also said that he was unable to supply “an alternative number.”
The NSC spokesperson should be wary. In Gaza, the Ministry of Health is not run by a neutral body. Hamas, the same group that initiated the conflict with a terrorist strike for no apparent reason, controls the territory.
Kirby continued by saying that the government does not fully believe the death toll figures published by the Health Ministry, but that they are confident that thousands of people have perished in Gaza. He added the tragedy in the region is “heavily on the president’s mind” and the government’s hands are tied.
United Nations and other organizations have acknowledged that Gaza’s Health Ministry is making a good-faith attempt to calculate the number of dead, but the United States remains skeptical.