Explosive violence trends and patterns in Gaza (2011-2019)
- AOAV recorded 5,682 deaths and injuries from explosive violence over this period
- Of these 90% (5,097) were civilians
- 75% of all civilian deaths and injuries in the period were recorded in 2014
- 97% of all deaths and injuries from explosive violence in the last nine years were perpetrated by a state actor – the Israeli Defense Force (IDF)
- In 2014, Only Iraq and Syria saw more civilian casualties as a result of explosive weapons
- AOAV recorded 3,813 civilian deaths and injuries from explosive violence in Gaza in 2014, almost all occurring in July and August, in what was known as ‘Operation Protective Edge’
Although Gaza has experienced consistent explosive violence throughout the past nine years, the majority of civilian harm recorded by AOAV occurred within a very short time frame between early July and late August 2014. This was the result of the Israeli military’s Operation Protective Edge, which brought about extensive harm to civilian populations in Gaza through the combined use of airstrikes and artillery shelling, alongside a coordinated ground assault.
Prior to 2014, Gaza had seen recent high levels of explosive violence. The first AOAV Explosive Violence Monitor recorded 304 civilian casualties over the course of 2011, making Gaza the world’s tenth worst-affected country by explosives that year. In 2012, the situation deteriorated, and civilian deaths and injuries more than doubled from the previous year. Having recorded 154 incidents of explosive violence, resulting in 641 civilian casualties, the 2012 Monitor ranked Gaza as the seventh worst-affected country by explosive violence. Somewhat surprisingly, 2013 then saw a sharp decline in explosive harm in Gaza. Whilst not disappearing completely, the nine incidents of explosive violence recorded by AOAV over the course of that year, reflected a stark improvement for the safety of civilians in Gaza. This improvement was, however, extremely short lived.
In 2014, AOAV recorded 4,022 casualties from explosive violence in Gaza, of which 95% (3,813) were civilians. Having not featured on AOAV’s list of the fifteen worst-affected countries in the previous year, Gaza was immediately catapulted to third place in the 2014 Monitor, behind Syria and Iraq.
The reason behind this huge rise in civilian harm was the initiation of Operation Protective Edge by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on 7 July 2014. The operation had the stated aim of putting an end to rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and followed months of escalating tensions in the region. It lasted until 26 August and wreaked havoc on Gaza’s civilian population, despite its narrow timeframe. The extreme concentration of violence in this month-and-a-half was reflected in AOAV’s data, with 98% of all civilian deaths and injuries recorded in Gaza that year occurring in July. Furthermore, more than half (52%) of all civilian casualties recorded globally by AOAV in July 2014 occurred in Gaza.
The majority of Gaza’s civilian casualties in 2014 resulted from aerial weapons such as air-dropped bombs and missiles. AOAV reported that 35% of all recorded civilian casualties from air-launched weapons in 2014 took place in Gaza – only Syria saw greater levels of harm. This being said, artillery shelling also caused untold amounts of destruction in Gaza in the same year – 43% of total recorded civilian deaths and injuries from artillery occurred in this one country.
AOAV scrutinised Israel’s artillery policy in greater depth in the report ‘Under Fire’ released in December 2014. The report also reflected the intense damage wreaked by Israeli forces during this short, but extremely harmful, period. For example, AOAV highlighted how, during Operation Protective Edge, 26 schools in Gaza were completely destroyed, whilst 122 were damaged; at least 15 out of Gaza’s 32 hospitals were damaged; and 108,000 people were left homeless.
The actions of the IDF during Operation Protective Edge meant that AOAV cited Israel as the individual state actor responsible for the most reported civilian harm in 2014. It must also be noted, however, that at least 4,382 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel during this timeframe according to the IDF’s own figures. Despite this, due to Israel’s missile defence system and its far superior firepower, levels of harm between the two countries were incomparable. AOAV recorded 133 civilian deaths and injuries in Israel during 2014, whilst the number of civilian deaths in Gaza was 1,470 – 501 of which were children.
After the destruction of 2014, the following three years saw a large reduction in the levels of explosive harm in Gaza. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, AOAV did not cite Gaza amongst its list of the fifteen worst-affected countries globally, nor did it not record above twelve incidents over the course of any given year. Although this reflected a stark improvement, the number of recorded incidents of explosive violence in Gaza did rise, albeit not radically, year-on-year over this period. However, this rise continued into 2018 when AOAV recorded 37 incidents of explosive violence in Gaza, resulting in 114 civilian casualties. As a result, the 2018 Monitor cited Gaza as the twelfth worst-affected country from explosive violence and the fourth worst affected by air-launched weaponry. The following year, although the number of recorded explosive incidents fell and AOAV cited Gaza as the fifteenth worst-affected country, the number of civilian casualties rose from the previous year to 148, creating concern for the future.
Over the nine-year period of the AOAV Explosive Violence Monitor there have been 5,097 recorded civilian deaths and injuries from explosive violence in Gaza. Overwhelmingly this harm has been perpetrated by a single state actor – the Israel Defense Force – to whom AOAV attribute 97% of all casualties in Gaza in the last nine years. Unlike many other countries that have featured heavily in AOAV’s ongoing research, Gaza has witnessed the overwhelming majority of its explosive harm in an extremely short time period. Of the total recorded civilian deaths and injuries in Gaza over the last nine-years, 75% occurred in 2014, reflecting the intense and concentrated impact of Operation Protective Edge. Although Gaza has not again witnessed levels of violence close to those recorded in 2014, recent rises in civilian casualties are cause for alarm and must be closely monitored.
UN says bombing of towns and cities must stop
The UN Secretary-General has highlighted the civilian suffering caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (courtesy of INEW).
‘Under Fire’ – Israel’s artillery policies scrutinised
AOAV report on how the IDF's changes to rules of engagement for artillery shelling have increased the risk to civilians in Gaza.
New report shows male civilians at particular risk of being killed by explosive weapons
AOAV report shows that in July 2014, male civilians were more likely than female civilians to be killed by explosive weapons in Syria and Gaza.
Explosive Violence Monitor: 2014
Global civilian casualties from explosive violence in 2014 increased for the third year running, up 5% from 2013.
Explosive weapon harm: mental health and psychological impacts
AOAV looks at the devastating impact on explosive weapon use on the mental health of civilians