The United Nations has begun citing a much lower death toll for women and children in Gaza, acknowledging that it has incomplete information about many of the people killed during Israel’s military offensive in the territory.

As recently as May 6, the U.N’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in its regularly updated online report that at least 9,500 women and 14,500 children were among the dead, out of an overall death toll of 34,735.

Two days later, the U.N. said in another online update that 4,959 women, 7,797 children and 10,006 men had been killed. While the total number of deaths remained roughly the same, a U.N. official said that it was awaiting more identifying information from officials in Gaza for about 10,000 of the dead, so they were not included in the new breakdown of women, men and children.

The change in the U.N.’s numbers — and the confusion over the discrepancy — has added fuel to a debate over the credibility of the Gazan authorities’ tallies of fatalities in the war. The deaths of women and children are seen as an important, if incomplete, indication of how many civilians have been killed, a question that lies at the heart of the criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war.

The change came because the United Nations switched to citing a more conservative source for its numbers — the Gazan Ministry of Health — rather than using Gaza’s Government Media Office, as it had in recent weeks. Both offices are part of the Hamas-run government in the enclave.

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