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Explosive Violence in May 2023

In May 2023, Action on Armed Violence recorded 2,447 deaths and injuries from 543 incidents of explosive violence around the world, as reported in English-language media. Civilians accounted for 62% (1,528) of the deaths and injuries recorded.

When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 86% (1,417) of the casualties were civilians, compared to 14% (111) in other areas.

Manufactured explosive weapons accounted for 84% (1,287) of civilian casualties, while improvised explosive weapons (IEDs) accounted for 8% (115) of these civilian casualties in May 2023. Of the main launch-method types of manufactured explosive weapons, ground-launched explosive weapons accounted for 56% (862) of civilian casualties, air-launched weapons were responsible for 20% (300) of civilian casualties, and landmines were responsible for 2% (34) of civilian casualties.

At least one death or injury from the use of explosive weapons was recorded in 30 countries and territories in May 2023. The five most affected countries and territories in terms of civilian casualties from the use of explosive weapons were Ukraine (798 civilian casualties), Sudan (192), Gaza (113), Myanmar (102), and Syria (49).

UKRAINE

In May 2023, there were 260 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Ukraine, 256 of which resulted in 798 civilian casualties, of whom 141 were killed and 657 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 39 children, 87 women, and 100 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 98% of all 811 casualties recorded in Ukraine in May, as there were also 13 reported armed-actor casualties, of whom nine were killed and four injured.

The majority of civilian casualties, 94% (749), occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 34% (268) of civilian casualties occurred in urban residential areas, 29% (234) across multiple urban locations, 20% (157) in villages, 5% (41) in hospitals, 2% in commercial premises (14), transport-related infrastructure (13), and other populated locations (12) respectively, and <1% in humanitarian infrastructure (5), agricultural land (4), and town centres (1). 

The regions in which civilian casualties were reported in Ukraine were Donetsk (225 civilian casualties), Kherson (195), Dnipropetrovsk (127), Kharkiv (66), Zaporizhzhia (58), Luhansk (37), Kyiv (25), Khmelnytskyi (21), Sumy (17), Mykolaiv (10), Odesa (7), Chernihiv (6), Ternopil (2), and Rivne (2).

The vast majority of civilian casualties, 98% (785), were caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons. Specifically, Russian armed forces reportedly caused 90% (718) of civilian casualties, Ukraine’s armed forces 8% (62), and unknown state actors <1% (5). Non-state actors caused 1% (11) of civilian casualties, specifically Ukrainian resistance (8) and unknown non-state actors (3). Actors of unknown name and status caused <1% (2) of civilian casualties.

The use of ground-launched explosive weapons was the cause of 58% (466) of civilian casualties in Ukraine in May, specifically non-specific shelling (260 civilian casualties), rockets (67), combined ground-launched weapons (57), missiles (35), artillery shelling (31), grenades (9), and mortars (7). Air-launched weapons caused 16% (131) of civilian casualties, specifically air strikes (109 civilian casualties), air-dropped bombs (18), missiles (3), and combined air-launched weapons (1). Combined explosive weapons caused 16% (126) of civilian casualties. Weapons of unclear launch method caused 8% (61) of civilian casualties, specifically missiles (54) and rockets (7). Mines caused 2% (12) of civilian casualties, specifically landmines (9), anti-personnel mines (2), and anti-vehicle mines (1). Improvised explosive devices, specifically non-specific IEDs, caused <1% (2) of civilian casualties.

The number of incidents and civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Ukraine in May 2023 increased compared to levels recorded in April, in which 204 incidents caused 586 civilian casualties, of whom 160 were killed and 426 injured. In March, 214 incidents caused 602 civilian casualties (152 killed and 450 injured). 

SUDAN

In May 2023, there were seven incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Sudan, which resulted in 192 civilian casualties, of whom 59 were killed and 133 injured. Civilian casualties include at least one child, and one woman. No armed actors were reported killed or injured by explosive weapons in Sudan in May.

All civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 69% (133) of civilian casualties occurred in markets, 16% (30) across multiple urban locations, 12% (23) in urban residential areas, 2% (4) in hospitals, 1% (2) in encampments. 

The regions in which civilian casualties were reported in Sudan were Khartoum (140 civilian casualties), North Darfur (30), West Darfur (20), and South Darfur (2).

The majority of civilian casualties, 72% (139), were reportedly caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically the Sudanese Armed Forces. Combined state and non-state actors, specifically the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, caused 27% (51) of recorded civilian casualties. Actors of unknown name and status caused 1% (2) of civilian casualties.

Ground-launched weapons caused 97% (188) of civilian casualties, specifically tanks shells (133 civilian casualties), non-specific shelling (32), combined ground-launched weapons (20), and mortars (1). Air-launched weapons, specifically air strikes, caused 3% (6) of civilian casualties. 

The number of incidents and civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Sudan in May 2023 decreased marginally compared to levels recorded in April, in which 20 incidents caused 210 civilian casualties, of whom 49 were killed and 161 injured. There were no recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Sudan in March 2023.

GAZA

In May 2023, there were 24 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Gaza, 20 of which caused 113 civilian casualties, 19 of whom were killed and 94 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 28 children, 25 women, and eight men. Overall, civilians accounted for 86% of the total 131 casualties of explosive weapon use, as 18 armed actors were also recorded, 13 of whom were killed and five injured.

All civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 84% (95) of civilian casualties occurred in urban residential areas, 9% (10) in hospitals, and 7% (8) on agricultural land. 

The regions in which civilian casualties were reported in Gaza were Gaza (50 civilian casualties), North Gaza (22), Rafah (20), Khan Younis (11), and Deir al-Balah (10). 

The majority of civilian casualties, 74% (84), were reportedly caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically Israel. Actors of unknown name and status caused 26% (29) of civilian casualties.

The use of air-launched weapons was the cause of 74% (84) of civilian casualties, specifically missiles (46 civilian casualties), air strikes (31), and air-dropped bombs (7). Weapons of unclear launch method caused 26% (29) of civilian casualties.

There were no recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Gaza in April 2023, but in March one incident was recorded, in which two civilians were injured. 

MYANMAR

In May 2023, there were 69 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Myanmar, 30 of which caused 102 civilian casualties, 29 of whom were killed and 73 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 14 children, 10 women, and 11 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 28% of the total 367 casualties of explosive weapon use, as 265 armed-actor casualties were also recorded, 162 of whom were killed and 103 injured.

96% (98) of  civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 58% (59) of civilian casualties occurred in villages, 7% (7) in urban residential areas, 6% (6) in police stations, 5% in places of worship (5) and schools (5) respectively, 4% in hospitals (4) and encampments (4) respectively, 3% in public buildings (3) and on public transport (3) respectively, and 2% (2) across multiple urban locations.

The states in which civilian casualties were reported in Myanmar were Sagaing (32 civilian casualties), Mon (19), Shan (17), Karen (11), Mandalay (9), Bago (6), Kayah (5), Tanintharyi (2), and Magwe (1). 

The majority of civilian casualties, 82% (84), were caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically the Myanmar military junta. Non-state actors caused 13% (13) of civilian casualties, specifically unknown non-state actors (5), the People’s Defence Forces (3), the Dawei Collective Column (2), the Karen National Liberation Army (2), and the Myingyan District Drone Force (1).

Air-launched weapons caused the majority of civilian casualties, 59% (60). Specifically, air-strikes caused 59 civilian casualties and air-dropped bombs caused 1. Ground-launched weapons caused 26% (27) of civilian casualties, specifically artillery shells (12 civilian casualties), non-specific shelling (9), grenades (3), and mortars (3). Improvised explosive devices caused 8% (8) of civilian casualties, specifically non-specific IED (5 civilian casualties), and air-dropped bombs (3). Mines, specifically landmines, caused 7% (7) of civilian harm.

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Myanmar in May 2023 decreased compared to April, when 59 incidents caused 309 reported civilian casualties (181 killed, 128 injured). In March, 113 incidents of explosive weapon use were recorded, which resulted in 140 reported civilian casualties (44 killed, 96 injured).

SYRIA

In May 2023, there were 46 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Syria, 21 of which resulted in 49 civilian casualties, 22 of whom were killed and 27 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 14 children, two women, and 13 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 42% of all 116 casualties in Syria in May, as 67 armed actors casualties were also recorded, 38 of whom were killed and 29 injured.

94% (46) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 43% (21) of civilian casualties occurred in urban residential areas, 33% (16) in villages, 6% in encampments (3) and public transport (3) respectively, 4% (2) in transport-related infrastructure, and 2% (1) at public gatherings.

The regions in which civilian casualties were recorded in Syria in May are Idlib (9), Suweida (8), Raqqa (7), Daraa (6), Aleppo (6), Hasakah (5), Homs (5), and Deir Ezzor (3).

65% (32) of civilian casualties were caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons. 27% (13) of civilian casualties were reportedly caused by Turkey, 16% (8) by Jordan, 14% (7) by Syria, 4% (2) by Israel, and 2% by the USA (1) and Russia (1) respectively. Non-state actors caused 35% (17) of civilian casualties, specifically unknown non-state actors (10), ISIS (3), and the Al-Okaidat tribal group.

Ground-launched weapons caused 67% (33) of civilian casualties, specifically grenades (11), artillery shells (8), combined ground-launched weapons (5), non-specific shelling (5), missiles (3), and mortars (1). Air-launched weapons caused 26% (13) of civilian casualties, specifically air strikes (12) and missiles (1). Improvised explosive devices were the cause of 4% (2) of civilian casualties, specifically roadside bombs (1) and non-specific IEDs (1).

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Syria in May 2023 decreased compared to April, when 55 incidents caused 82 reported civilian casualties, 31 of whom were killed and 51 injured. In March, 53 incidents were recorded, which resulted in 95 civilian casualties (36 killed, 59 injured).



AOAV condemns the use of violence against civilians and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. All actors should stop using explosive weapons with wide-area effects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians.