Israel revised its official estimated death toll of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, lowering the number to about 1,200 people, down from the more than 1,400 initially cited, a spokesman for the country’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday night.
The spokesman, Lior Haiat, said the original figure was an “initial estimate” that had now been updated. He declined to provide further details on the change, but emphasized that the numbers could continue to fluctuate as the remains of those killed are identified.
For both Israelis and Palestinians, the casualty counts in the monthlong war between Israel and Hamas have become emotionally charged figures. The tolls have become symbols for the depth of the agony gripping both peoples, and partisans on either side have sought to play down the number of those killed on the opposite camp.
Here what’s we know about the death toll in Israel from the Oct. 7 attack.
How many people were killed in Israel during the Oct. 7 attacks?
On Oct. 7, scores of Hamas gunmen swept into Israeli towns and military bases near the border with Gaza, opening fire on people in their homes, on the streets, and at a music festival. The attackers fatally shot the elderly, women and young children, according to survivors; others were burned after attackers set their homes ablaze.
The vast majority of those killed in the Oct. 7 assault — around 70 percent — have been identified as civilians, not soldiers, by Israeli authorities. According to Israeli police, health officials have identified at least 846 civilians killed in the fighting.
At least 278 soldiers were killed in the battles inside Israel, according to the Israeli military’s website, and at least 44 police officers died in the fighting, the Israel Police said in mid-October. (Additionally, at least 46 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the ground invasion of Gaza began at the end of the month.)
Those killed in Israel on Oct. 7 also included foreigners and dual nationals. At least 31 U.S. citizens and 39 French citizens were killed during the attacks, authorities in both countries have said. Other victims included at least 34 Thai nationals; Asian workers were a common sight in the farms near Israel’s border with Gaza.
Why did Israel’s figures change?
Israel’s original estimated toll from the attacks was subject to less scrutiny than the death toll compiled by the Hamas-controlled authorities in the Gaza Strip, where thousands have died in weeks of heavy Israeli bombardment and a ground invasion.
Some news outlets — including The New York Times — occasionally used those Israeli figures without attributing them to Israeli officials or noting that they were an initial estimate and subject to change.
One reason for the fluctuating death toll is that Israeli health officials say they have struggled to identify many Israelis and foreigners killed in the attacks, and they excluded from the official toll the remains of those they considered to have been attackers, highlighting the complicated task of giving an accurate, authoritative count.