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Explosive Violence in December 2023

In December 2023, Action on Armed Violence recorded 7,003 deaths and injuries from 768 incidents of explosive violence around the world, as reported in English-language media. Civilians accounted for 88% (6,191) of the deaths and injuries recorded.

When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 95% (6,057) of the casualties were civilians, compared to 21% (134) in other areas.

Manufactured explosive weapons accounted for 98% (6,040) of civilian casualties, while improvised explosive weapons (IEDs) accounted for 2% (151) of these civilian casualties in December 2023. Of the main launch-method types of manufactured explosive weapons, ground-launched explosive weapons accounted for 16% (987) of civilian casualties, air-launched weapons were responsible for 73% (4,508) of civilian casualties, and landmines were responsible for 1% (48) of civilian casualties.

At least one death or injury from the use of explosive weapons was recorded in 27 countries and territories in December 2023. The five most affected countries and territories in terms of civilian casualties from the use of explosive weapons were Gaza (3,996 civilian casualties), Ukraine (732), Sudan (439), Syria (248), and Myanmar (200).

GAZA

In December 2023, there were 278 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Gaza, 254 of which resulted in 3,996 civilian casualties, of whom 3,237 were killed and 759 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 114 children, 48 women, and 42 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 98% of all 4,080 casualties recorded in Gaza in December, as there were also 84 reported armed-actor casualties, of whom 52 were killed and 32 injured. Due to the consistent and frequent attacks in populated areas using explosive weapons, incident-specific reporting of casualties in Gaza is a slow and laborious process, with many reports coming in weeks after the incident. This, added to the difficulty in disaggregating and tracking rising casualty tolls and attributing deaths and injuries to specific strikes, means that AOAV’s December data for Gaza is, as it stands, likely to be a significant undercounting.

The majority of civilian casualties, 99.9% (3,991), occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 77% (3,079) occurred in urban residential areas, 9% in encampments (349) and hospitals (347) respectively, 3% (118) in schools, 1% in places of worship (51) and commercial premises (26) respectively, and less than 1% in town centres (15), across multiple urban areas (5), and in humanitarian infrastructure (1) respectively.

The regions in which civilian casualties were reported in Gaza in December are North Gaza (2,098 civilian casualties), South Gaza (1,250), and Central Gaza (648). 

All recorded civilian casualties were caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically Israel.

The use of air-launched weapons caused 89% (3,560) of civilian casualties, specifically air strikes (2,863 civilian casualties), and air-launched missiles (697). Combined explosive weapons caused 8% (324) of civilian casualties, and ground-launched weapons caused 3% (112) of civilian casualties in Gaza in December, specifically artillery shelling (49 civilian casualties), non-specific shelling (36), combined ground-launched weapons (20), tank shells (5), and grenades (2).

The number of incidents and civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Gaza in December 2023 rose compared to levels recorded in November, when 239 incidents resulted in 3,322 civilian casualties (2,354 killed, 968 injured). In October, AOAV recorded 398 incidents and 5,758 civilian casualties, of whom 3,793 were killed and 1,965 injured. This is reflective of Israel’s military operation in Gaza, Operation Iron Swords, in response to Hama’s incursion into Israel and subsequent massacre of civilians and soldiers on October 7th. 

UKRAINE

In December 2023, there were 184 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Ukraine, 179 of which caused 732 civilian casualties, 138 of whom were killed and 594 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 27 children, 76 women and 129 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 97% of all 755 casualties in Ukraine in December, as 23 armed actor casualties were also recorded, 10 of whom were killed and 13 injured.

98% (714) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 48% (355) occurred across multiple urban areas, 31% (227) in urban residential areas, 8% (58) in villages, 4% (28) in town centres, 3% (23) at public gatherings, 1% in commercial premises (8), hospitals (6), and other populated locations (5) respectively, and less than 1% in transport-related infrastructure (3), and schools (1) respectively.

The oblasts in which civilian casualties were reported in Ukraine in December are Kherson (183 civilian casualties), Donetsk (140), Kyiv (122), Kharkiv (71), Dnipropetrovsk (65), Odessa (42), Zaporizhzhia (35), Lviv (25), Zakarpattia (23), Sumy (11), Cherkasy (9), Chernihiv (4), and in the Black Sea (2). 

The majority of civilian casualties, 97% (708), were attributed to state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically Russia (653 civilian casualties), Ukraine (53), and unknown state actors (2). Non-state actors caused 3% (24) of civilian casualties, specifically unknown non-state actors (23), and the Mariupol Resistance Movement (1).

The use of ground-launched weapons caused 43% (314) of civilian casualties, specifically non-specific shelling (189 civilian casualties), ground-launched missiles (38), artillery shelling (36), grenades (23), ground-launched rockets (13), combined ground-launched weapons (11), and mortar shelling (4). Air-launched weapons caused 36% (254) of civilian casualties, specifically air strikes (144 civilian casualties), and air-launched missiles (110). Combined explosive weapons resulted in 17% (121) of civilian casualties. Weapons of unclear launch method caused 5% (40) of civilian casualties, specifically missiles. Mines, specifically anti-vehicle mines, caused less than 1% (2) of civilian casualties. The use of IEDs, specifically car bombs, caused less than 1% (1) of civilian casualties.

The number of civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Ukraine in December 2023 increased considerably compared to levels recorded in November, when 197 incidents caused 458 civilian casualties, 114 of whom were killed and 344 injured. In October, 230 incidents were recorded, which caused 568 civilian casualties (158 killed, 410 injured).

SUDAN

In December 2023, there were 12 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Sudan, which caused 439 civilian casualties, 300 of whom were killed and 139 injured. Civilian casualties included at least five children, five women, and one man. There were no armed actor casualties recorded in Sudan in December 2023, although this is likely due to lack of transparency by the actors party to the ongoing civil war..

97% (427) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 62% (274) occurred in urban residential areas, 23% (101) in markets, 11% (47) across multiple urban areas, and 1% (5) at public gatherings.

The states in which civilian casualties were reported in Sudan in December are South Darfur (213 civilian casualties), Khartoum (190), North Kordofan (32), and South Kordofan (4). 

80% (352) of civilian casualties were caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically, Sudan, while non-state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically the Rapid Support Forces, caused 16% (70) of civilian casualties. Actors of unknown name and status caused 4% (17) of civilian casualties.

The use of air-launched weapons, specifically air strikes, caused 80% (352) of civilian casualties. Ground-launched weapons caused 20% (87) of civilian casualties, specifically the use of artillery shelling (77 civilian casualties), non-specific shelling (5), and grenades (5).

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Sudan in December 2023 increased compared to November, when 16 incidents caused 326 reported civilian casualties (115 killed, 211 injured). In October, 15 incidents of explosive weapon use were recorded, which resulted in 195 reported civilian casualties (49 killed, 146 injured).

SYRIA

In December 2023, there were 98 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Syria, 44 of which caused 248 civilian casualties, 64 of whom were killed and 184 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 63 children, 21 women, and 21 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 53% of the total 464 casualties of explosive weapon use, as 216 armed-actor casualties were also recorded, 153 of whom were killed and 63 injured.

94% (234) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 53% (132) occurred in urban residential areas, 17% (43) in villages, 9% (23) across multiple urban areas, 7% (18) in markets, 2% in police stations (5), entertainment venues (4), and schools (4) respectively, and 1% in commercial premises (3) and encampments (2) respectively.

The governorates in which civilian casualties were reported in Syria in December are Idlib (115 civilian casualties), Aleppo (88), Hasakah (24), Deir Ezzor (6), Rif Dimashq (4), Suweida (4), Daraa (3), Raqqa (2), and Homs (2). 

69% (171) of civilian casualties were caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically Syria (126 civilian casualties), Turkey (28), Russia (7), Israel (6), and Jordan (4). Non-state actors’ use of explosive weapons caused 19% (47) of civilian casualties, specifically Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (29), unknown non-state actors (11), the National Defence Forces (3), Islamic State (2), and the Islamic Resistance (2). Actors of unknown name and status caused 12% (30) of civilian casualties in Syria in December.

The use of ground-launched weapons caused 67% (167) of civilian casualties, specifically artillery shelling (50 civilian casualties), ground-launched missiles (48), ground-launched rockets (39), non-specific shelling (26), and grenades (4). Air-launched weapons caused 15% (37) of civilian casualties, specifically air strikes (31 civilian casualties), and air-launched missiles (6). Mines, in particular landmines, caused 10% (26) of civilian casualties. The use of IEDs resulted in 6% (16) of civilian casualties, specifically non-specific IEDs (8 civilian casualties), car bombs (5), and roadside bombs (3). Combined explosive weapons caused 1% (2) of civilian casualties.

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Syria in December 2023 increased compared to November, when 100 incidents caused 132 reported civilian casualties (33 killed, 99 injured). In October, 156 incidents of explosive weapon use were recorded, which resulted in 519 reported civilian casualties (166 killed, 353 injured).

MYANMAR

In December 2023, there were 64 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Myanmar, 47 of which resulted in 200 civilian casualties, 63 of whom were killed and 137 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 42 children, 26 women, and 22 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 61% of all 328 casualties recorded in Myanmar in December, as 128 armed actor casualties were also recorded, 56 of whom were killed and 72 injured. 

99.5% (199) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 47% (94) occurred in urban residential areas, 37% (73) in villages, 8% (15) across multiple urban locations, 5% (9) in public buildings, 3% (6) in encampments, and 1% (1)  in hospitals and police stations respectively.

The states in which civilian casualties were recorded in Myanmar in December are Shan (73 civilian casualties), Rakhine (59), Sagaing (32), Tanintharyi (10), Bago (7), Mandalay (5), Magway (5), Kachin (3), Karen (2), Mon (2), Yangon (1), and Chin (1).

State actors, specifically the Myanmar military, caused 92% (183), of civilian casualties, while non-state actors, specifically the People Defence Forces, caused 5% (10) of civilian casualties. Actors of unknown name and status caused 4% (7) of civilian casualties.

Ground-launched weapons caused 55% (109) of civilian casualties, specifically non-specific shelling (66 civilian casualties), artillery shelling (40), and mortar shelling (3). The use of air-launched weapons, specifically air strikes, caused 32% (64) of civilian casualties. IEDs caused 6% (11) of civilian casualties, specifically improvised mortars (10 civilian casualties), and non-specific IEDs (1). Combined explosive weapons caused 5% (10) of civilian casualties, and mines, specifically landmines, caused 3% (6) of civilian casualties.

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Myanmar in December 2023 fell compared to November, when 74 incidents caused 387 reported civilian casualties, 122 of whom were killed and 265 injured. In October, 74 incidents were recorded, which resulted in 197 civilian casualties (61 killed, 136 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.