Gaza Death Toll Nears 20,000 During Israel-Hamas War

That estimate comes from an analysis of police and hospital records compiled in 1982 by the newspaper An Nahar, which at the time was among the Arab world’s most respected. It put the death toll at 17,825. But the paper said that tally was most likely an undercount, and in 1982, The Times reported that “numbering the dead correctly is virtually impossible” in Lebanon.

In the 1967 Middle East war, nearly 19,000 Egyptians, Syrians and others were estimated to have been killed fighting Israel, while a similar number — mostly Syrians and Egyptians — died in the 1973 war, according to The Associated Press. As in the Gaza and Lebanon wars, the exact tolls for these wars are also not known, but most of the dead were believed to be combatants.

In contrast, the Gaza Health Ministry, which is part of the Hamas-run government there, said on Wednesday that of the 19,667 killed, about 70 percent are women and children. The Gazan authorities never give breakdowns for how many of those killed are combatants.

Israel claims it has killed some 7,000 Hamas fighters, but has not explained how it arrived at that number.

The toll in Gaza is expected to rise significantly when Palestinians are able to dig out of the vast destruction that the war has wrought. A Gazan government spokesman said Wednesday that in addition to the roughly 20,000 dead, 6,700 people are missing. Many are believed to still be buried in the rubble.

“The likelihood is that many people who are missing under the rubble will be determined to have been killed,” said Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch. For that reason, the death toll is “likely to increase even if the bombing were to stop today,” he added.