November 12, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Revises October 7 Death Toll After Agonizing Forensics

November 12, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Revises October 7 Death Toll After Agonizing Forensics

Latest Developments​

Israel revised its estimated death toll from the October 7 massacre by Hamas to approximately 1,200 people after five weeks of forensic struggle to identity the victims. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat released the figure on November 9. “This is the updated number,” Haiat told AFP. “It is due to the fact that there were a lot of corpses that were not identified and now we think those belong to terrorists… not Israeli casualties.” The previous estimate was 1,400 people, shared by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visiting U.S. President Joe Biden on October 18.

Haiat cautioned, “This is not a final number. It is an updated estimate,” which may be updated again. The new figure includes 845 civilians and more than 350 troops, police, and security personnel. Some of the 239 people taken hostage by Hamas may also have been killed outright or shortly after being taken into captivity. Another 13 people remain unaccounted for. Numerous bodies have yet to be identified, but Israeli officials said most belong to terrorists killed while perpetrating the massacre.

Expert Analysis​

“Unlike Hamas, which rushes to issue inflated casualty counts in Gaza to an ever-gullible international press corps, Israel was slow to publish the extent of the October 7 carnage. First we heard of dozens killed, then hundreds, then many hundreds. This was in keeping with Israel’s respect for victims’ privacy, for religious decency and for military notification regulations. Now the Israelis, at the height of a war that is as much about international opinion as it is about defeating evil, have had the decency to set the record straight. They deserve only praise for that.” Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“Every victim of October 7 was an atrocity. One would have been too many. How much more so a tally of more than 1,000, which in per capita terms made this the worst terrorist attack in modern history. Unfortunately, Israel has had to keep the 1,200 figure approximate, on the assumption that it will yet rise. Some of those unaccounted for, or held by Hamas, will have also been killed.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

Forensics Efforts Struggle to Identify Charred Remains

The flood of victims on October 7 overwhelmed Israel’s National Center for Forensic Medicine in Jaffa, which normally handles about 2,000 cases per year. The center’s director, Dr. Chen Kugel, described a case involving what first appeared to be a charred torso, which a CT scan revealed to have two spines and two sets of ribs — apparently an adult and a child fused in a final embrace. The effort to identify victims also drew on support from the Israel Antiquities Authority, whose archaeologists helped to identify charred remains from 10 individuals initially listed as missing.

No One Can Deny Hamas’ Aim is to Kill Jews — It Fully Admits It,” Mark Dubowitz and Natalie Ecanow

Terrorist Murders Israeli Policewoman in Jerusalem Who Immigrated from U.S.,” FDD Flash Brief

Israeli Druze Colonel Killed in Gaza Fighting,” FDD Flash Brief


Israel Israel at War