White House spokesperson John Kirby did not say 'Israel has killed zero civilians in Gaza'

By: Nikolaj Kristensen
February 5 2024

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White House spokesperson John Kirby did not say 'Israel has killed zero civilians in Gaza'

(Source: Facebook/X/TikTok/Instagram/Screenshots)


The Verdict Misleading

Kirby’s statement is being misrepresented. He said that, ideally, there should be zero civilian casualties.

Claim ID 067f8630


A video of U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby talking about civilian deaths in Gaza at a press briefing in the White House is circulating on Facebook and Instagram.

“Unbelievable…”, reads one Facebook post paraphrasing Kirby’s statement at the briefing as, “The case brought by South Africa against Israel is meaningless because there is no intentional genocide, the true number of civilian deaths in Gaza is ZERO!” 

The caption of an Instagram post containing the video reads: “Israel has killed zero civilians in Gaza, says John Kirby.”

The video is also circulating with similar claims on TikTok and X (formerly Twitter).  

However, the posts lack context and misrepresents Kirby’s statement. Kirby said the “right number” — as in, ideally — of civilian casualties is zero. He has, on previous occasions, talked about specific civilian casualties in Gaza. 

In fact

As seen in a video posted by the White House's official YouTube channel, during a press briefing on January 26, 2024, Kirby was asked a question regarding the genocide case that South Africa has brought against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

“We haven’t seen indications that the Israeli Defence Forces are getting up out of the rack every day, putting their boots on the floor, and saying that their design, their whole effort, is to go exterminate the Palestinian people,” Kirby said, before adding: 

“I want to be really clear, and I know I’ve said this a million times, and you’re probably sick of me following up on this, but that doesn’t mean that we excuse any single innocent life lost. The right number of civilian casualties is zero.”

At previous press briefings, Kirby has talked about specific civilian casualties in the Israel-Hamas war. On December 18, 2023, he said, “We’ve been very clear that we believe every effort possible must be made to prevent civilian casualties. Unfortunately, it appears that, in this case, a mother and a daughter lost their lives. And our hearts go out to the families who are grieving their loved ones.” 

On December 8, 2023, he said that the White House recognized more could be done to try to “reduce” civilian casualties and that “we know many, many thousands have been killed; many, many thousands more have been wounded.” 

In a provisional ruling on January 26, 2023, the ICJ said “at least some” of South Africa’s claims were “plausible” and ordered Israel to take all measures to prevent genocide in Gaza. 

The verdict

Posts on social media misrepresent Kirby’s statement. He did not say that no civilians have been killed in Gaza. Kirby has previously talked about specific civilian casualties in the Israel-Hamas. Therefore, we have marked this claim as misleading. 

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