Now it can be told! Hamas lied that people died.

The Associated Press has an analysis up today that reveals—I hope you’re sitting down for this—that the Hamas/UN casualty numbers, especially the age and gender breakdown of those numbers, are way off. And—again, steady yourself—those numbers have been obviously wrong for “months” and nobody seems to have adjusted their reporting accordingly.

My word. Here’s how the AP sums up its groundbreaking accomplishment otherwise known as opening your eyes:

The Health Ministry announces a new death toll for the war nearly every day. It also has periodically released the underlying data behind this figure, including detailed lists of the dead.

The AP’s analysis looked at these lists, which were shared on social media in late October, early January, late March, and the end of April. Each list includes the names of people whose deaths were attributable to the war, along with other identifying details.

The daily death tolls, however, are provided without supporting data. In February, ministry officials said 75% of the dead were women and children — a level that was never confirmed in the detailed reports. And as recently as March, the ministry’s daily reports claimed that 72% of the dead were women and children, even as underlying data clearly showed the percentage was well below that.

It’s the “clearly” that gets me. According to AP, the share of women and children is down to 38 percent as of April, and still declining. But keep in mind that “children” to the AP means those who are 17 years old and younger. Hamas, meanwhile, tends to count as children those who are under 20. So by the AP’s own count, the true number of children killed in the war is almost surely even lower. Additionally, Hamas doesn’t distinguish between combatants and noncombatants, which means a fair number of “upper teenagers” being counted as children here are actually combatants.

None of these totals, by the way, accounts for those killed by Hamas. So even though we get regular stories of Hamas murdering rival families and misfiring rockets and booby-trapping homes, those stories aren’t reflected in the count.

The point is: All of those numbers are significantly lower than have been reported. Western newspapers and news agencies have been mistaken by orders of magnitude. COMMENTARY readers already knew this, because we have been methodically challenging the Hamas Health Ministry’s propaganda from the beginning, as have others outside the stable of mainstream newspapers. (The Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ David Adesnik earns particular distinction on this front.)

The AP also wants its readers to know that getting accurate figures is important. Who knew! “The true toll in Gaza could have serious repercussions,” we’re told. “Two international courts in the Hague are examining accusations that Israel has committed war crimes and genocide against Palestinians — allegations it adamantly denies.”

No kidding.

Now, as for the total number of casualties, the AP isn’t really challenging that. But it’s clear even from the way the AP phrases it that the reported number should be far lower—probably by a third—than news outlets have been saying: “The ministry said publicly on April 30 that 34,622 had died in the war. The AP analysis was based on the 22,961 individuals fully identified at the time.” That’s 12,000 who really shouldn’t be counted. That’s not to say they don’t exist, just that nobody knows whether they exist, and therefore they should not be counted among the identified casualties—especially because Hamas has taken to commonly relying on media reports of deaths instead of actual bodies.

This is a major media scandal. But I don’t have much faith that it’ll be treated as such. Just yesterday, the AP and others had to revise numbers in a story about an Israeli strike on a Hamas command center in a building that was once used as a school: “The hospital initially reported that nine women and 14 children were among those killed in the strike on the school. The hospital morgue later amended those records to show that the dead included three women, nine children and 21 men. It was not immediately clear what caused the discrepancy. An Associated Press reporter had counted the bodies but was unable to look beneath the shrouds.”

Hamas showed reporters shrouds and told them what was in them, and the reporters dutifully repeated what they were told. That’s the process for a story like this. And it turned out while Hamas wouldn’t name who was in the shrouds, Israel has now done so. You will not be surprised to learn that at least a quarter of them were identifiable terrorists.

In a normal media ecosystem, there would be extensive internal reviews at the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and others, concluding with a clear plan for reforming the newsgathering process at these places and holding accountable those responsible for setting the world aflame with obvious lies. I won’t hold my breath. But the AP report, while late, is the first sign of a waking conscience among the press. May there be others.

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