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Over 186,000 Gazans dead may be Attributed to the Hamas Israeli War, Says Lancet magazine


 Mourners react next to the bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at Abu Yossef Al-Najar hospital, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip December 12, 2023. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mourners react next to the bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at Abu Yossef Al-Najar hospital, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip December 12, 2023.
(photo credit: REUTERS)


A longstanding medical journal ,The Lancet magazine, published a piece earlier this week authored by doctors Rasha Khatib, Martin McKee and Salim Yusuf, which claimed that “it is not implausible to estimate that up to 186,000 or even more deaths could be attributable to the current conflict in Gaza.”

Though the short piece was designated as a “correspondence” or a letter to the editor rather than a peer-reviewed academic article, and though the piece referred to alleged future accumulative death rates rather than current ones, the platform provided by the respected magazine gave it a reliable atmosphere. This led anti-Israel users on social media to propagate the new libel en masse, conveniently forgetting to mention the nature of the letter.

Such was UN rapporteur Francesca Albanese, who presents herself as an expert in law, quoted the piece, claiming in a tweet that “If one includes both direct & indirect deaths from Israel's assault, the death toll in Gaza goes up to 186,000 people, according to the medical journal The Lancet.  That's 1 in every 12 Gaza inhabitants killed in the last 9 months of genocide.”

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Another propagator of the digits was Qatar-related Middle East Eye, who mentioned in a tweet that it was a “letter from experts” but nevertheless published a graphic poster that attributed the new ‘death toll’ to the Lancet magazine itself.

Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian scholar indicted by and expelled from the US for his ties to the Islamic Jihad, also referred to the article, attributing to the Lancet, “a respected and peer-reviewed medical journal,” an estimate that “186,000 have been killed by Israel since Oct. 7.”

The Lancet editor, Prof. Richard Horton, at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center. (credit: COURTESY RAMBAM MEDICAL CENTER)
The Lancet editor, Prof. Richard Horton, at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center. (credit: COURTESY RAMBAM MEDICAL CENTER)

Other viral promoters of the new libel were Labour MP Zarah Sultana, pro-terror blogger Mohammed El-Kurd, , anti-Israel group Democracy Now, former JVP official Rabbi Alissa Wise, Palestinian doctor Ghassan Abu Sitta, French reported Charles Villa, and Canadian Palestinian neuroscientist Afif Aqrabawi.

Three days after the publication, one of the writers, Professor Martin McKee, retracted from the digits he co-provided in his piece, claiming that they were “purely illustrative” and that “our piece has been greatly misquoted and misinterpreted.” Despite that, none of the above-mentioned writers have retracted their statements.

The Jerusalem Post reached out to the Lancet magazine inquiring regarding whether the magazine stands behind the digits, plans to retract the digits following McKee’s comments, or plans to issue a clarification regarding the nature of the written piece.

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Lancet response

The Lancet magazine responded by saying that the letter was published in the Correspondence section of The Lancet by external authors. The 186,000 figure and corresponding 7.9% are estimates, explained in this paragraph of the Correspondence: 

"In recent conflicts, such indirect deaths range from three to 15 times the number of direct deaths. Applying a conservative estimate of four indirect deaths per one direct death to the 37 396 deaths reported, it is not implausible to estimate that up to 186 000 or even more deaths could be attributable to the current conflict in Gaza. Using the 2022 Gaza Strip population estimate of 2 375 259, this would translate to 7·9% of the total population in the Gaza Strip." 

The authors also note that many of these indirect deaths may not have yet occurred: “Armed conflicts have indirect health implications beyond the direct harm from violence. Even if the conflict ends immediately, there will continue to be many indirect deaths in the coming months and years

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