Piers Morgan confronts Israel official over refusal to give Gaza death toll

'You've got exact numbers for Hamas terrorists you've killed - why wouldn't you know how many civilians you've killed?'

Piers Morgan continues to question Avi Hyman on the number of civilian deaths in Gaza. (Piers Morgan Uncensored)
Piers Morgan continues to question Avi Hyman on the number of civilian deaths in Gaza. (Piers Morgan Uncensored)

Piers Morgan has clashed with an Israeli government spokesperson who said he did not know how many civilians Israel had killed during the war in Gaza.

The civilian death toll in Gaza has been of significant concern since Israel launched a military onslaught in response to the 7 October attacks last year. In March, the UN warned that the Israeli government had "lost all credibility" over its claims to protect people in the besieged region.

This week, Israel launched a major new military offensive against Hamas forces in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city after ceasefire talks broke down.

On Tuesday, Israeli government spokesperson Avi Hyman was pressed by Morgan on his Uncensored online talkshow over the number of people who have been killed since October, which Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health estimates to be about 35,000 people.

ARCHIVO - Palestinos observan la destrucción después de un ataque israelí en edificios residenciales y una mezquita en Rafah, en la Franja de Gaza, el 22 de febrero de 2024. (AP Foto/Fatima Shbair, archivo)
Damage to buildings in Rafa, pictured in February. (AP)

Asked how many civilians Israel believes it has killed during the conflict, Hyman responded: "We don't have exact figures."

Morgan responded: "But you've got exact numbers for Hamas terrorists you've killed – why wouldn't you know how many civilians you've killed?"

Israel has consistently disputed the death toll provided by the Gaza Ministry of Health, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians killed, and does not list the cause of death. According to the Associated Press news agency, a death by an Israeli rocket or by a misfired Hamas rocket would both be listed as 'victim of Israeli aggression'.

After Hyman argued that Israel's focus was to "go after the Hamas terrorists", Morgan insisted: "That does imply that you put a bigger premium on killing Hamas terrorists in terms of numbers and accountability than you are on innocent civilians - that can't be right, surely?"

Morgan added: "You're an official spokesperson for the Israeli government and you have no idea how many civilians you've killed? I thought you just told me that you were particularly careful about not killing civilians but if you don't know how many you've killed, how can you say that with any certainty?"

Hyman said he rejected Hamas figures as false, telling Morgan not to "put words into his mouth" during the exchange, in which he also said Israel would release full figures "once the dust settles".

Deaths tolls were previously cross referenced with information from Gaza hospitals and aid charities – but as hospitals have been bombed out of operation the Ministry of Health has increasingly relied on data such as media reports, which make the information less easy to verify.

This means the death toll could actually be far higher, or possibly lower (although this is less likely), than estimates, according to analysis from the Washington Institute.

Hyman argued that Israel had gone out of its way to avoid civilian casualties and said that compared to other conflicts Israel had taken greater care.

In March, Paula Gaviria Betancur, UN special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), called into question Israel's claims that it aimed to protect civilians in Gaza, commenting that the forced displacement of Gazans via Israel's evacuation orders had "not made the people of Gaza safer", and commenting that a ground assault in Rafah, in the south of the besieged enclave, would "lead to unimaginable suffering".

A tent camp housing Palestinians displaced by the Israeli offensive is seen in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
Around 1.3 million Palestinians are currently in Rafah. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

Israel has said it has taken control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, which is currently the only way for aid to enter the enclave and was previously the only route out of the strip for those allowed to leave – slowing the flow of much-needed aid into Gaza.

Around 1.3 million Palestinians, including 450,000 who have been forcibly displaced, are currently believed to be in Rafah amid Israel's onslaught in the north.

The situation has been described as "dire" by UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, who called for Israel to re-open the crossing.

Yahoo News has reached out to Avi Hyman for comment.