House votes to ban State Department from citing Gaza Health Ministry death toll statistics

House votes to ban State Department from citing Gaza Health Ministry death toll statistics

The House passed an amendment Thursday barring the State Department from citing the Gaza Health Ministry’s death toll statistics for the Israel-Hamas war, effectively halting discussion of the war’s deaths if it is signed into law.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers voted 269-144 to pass the amendment to the State Department’s annual appropriations bill. A group of 62 Democrats joined all but two Republicans in voting for the measure.

The amendment was led by Reps. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) and Carol Miller (R-W.Va.).

The Gaza Health Ministry has been cited by the State Department and news agencies for decades amid conflict in Gaza. It’s daily death toll during the current conflict that began in October has served as a primary source for understanding the war’s impact on Palestinians in the territory.

It is the only official entity tracking death data in Gaza, with its figures regularly being cited by both U.S. and Israeli officials.

Just under 38,000 Palestinians have died in the conflict since Oct. 7, according to its most recent release. The agency also noted that the figure is likely an undercount, due to Gaza’s lack of medical infrastructure and those missing and trapped under rubble.

The ministry’s daily death toll does not include underlying data, and does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

It does periodically release underlying data for its death toll figure. The most recent release in late April confirmed nearly 23,000 deaths with full names and identifying information.

An analysis from The Associated Press earlier this month found that the proportion of women and children who have died in the conflict has decreased as the war has gone on, from nearly two-thirds in October to about half in April.

The Israeli government has repeatedly criticized the ministry’s death toll, claiming the agency is inflating the figure for political reasons.

Last month, the World Health Organization affirmed that it has full confidence in the agency’s figures.

“Nothing wrong with the data, the overall data (more than 35,000) are still the same,” WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said last month. “The fact we now have 25,000 identified people is a step forward.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), herself a Palestinian American, denounced the amendment in a statement from the floor Wednesday, calling the move “genocide denial.”

Tlaib read the death toll and other information about the conflict into the congressional record, noting that she intended to include a list of the names of those killed in the conflict.

“It is important to note this to everyone here: The list is too long that I can’t even submit it because of the text limit,” she said. “That’s how many have been killed.”

The amendment will now be considered by the Senate as part of the larger State Department funding package.

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