FACT CHECK: Lloyd Austin Claims 25,000 Palestinian Women And Children Have Been Killed As Of Feb. 29

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin claimed during a Feb. 29 hearing that over 25,000 Palestinian women and children have been killed since Oct. 7.

Verdict: Misleading

The Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said that at least 70 percent of the 30,035 people reportedly killed are women and children, making the estimate around 21,000, not 25,000. The Pentagon later issued a clarification that said Austin meant 25,000 total people killed, per the Ministry of Health’s figures, though said it could not verify said numbers.

Fact Check:

Austin appeared before the House Armed Services Committee where he was questioned about his hospitalization and the lack of transparency surrounding it, according to CNN. (RELATED: Claims Of Mass IDF Casualties Lack Evidence)

During the hearing, Democratic California Rep. Ro Khanna asked how many Palestinian women and children had been killed since Oct. 7. Austin said it was 25,000.

This claim, however, is misleading. The Gaza Ministry of Health, which is run by Hamas, claimed that 30,035 people had been killed as of Feb. 29, according to BBC News. Of those 30,035, the health ministry notes that at least 70 percent are women and children, which means that at least 21,000 women and children have been killed.

A health ministry spokesman told BBC News that the numbers include those only who have been killed in military attacks and do not count those who have died of starvation or disease.

A Hamas official told Reuters that the group had estimated that 6,000 of its fighters have died, though Hamas refuted this number to BBC News.

The Wall Street Journal, though, reported that “Hamas leaders in Gaza have told Egyptian officials and the group’s political wing in exile” that the military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, has lost at least 6,000 fighters. Israel has claimed to have killed at least 12,000 Hamas fighters, while “U.S. and Egyptian intelligence officials believe the true losses are roughly in the middle,” according to the WSJ.

A Pentagon spokesperson clarified to Check Your Fact that Austin was talking about total Palestinian death figures, not just women and children.

“During the hearing today, Secretary Austin was asked how many women and children have died in Gaza. To clarify, the Secretary’s answer was citing an estimate from the Hamas-controlled health ministry that more than 25,000 total Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. We cannot independently verify these Gaza casualty figures,” the spokesperson said.

The IDF told Check Your Fact it had “no comment” on Austin’s remarks. An IDF spokesperson previously criticized the Gaza Ministry of Health’s figures, telling Check Your Fact in November 2023 that “the information being released by them is twisted, fake, and not confirmed.”

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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