Explosive Violence in Gaza in 2023

Israel’s military operation in Gaza has driven civilian casualties to the highest levels seen since AOAV began recording. Operation Swords of Iron is one of the longest running military operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and has generated an unprecedented humanitarian crisis as well as sending ripples of tension and violence around the world.

AOAV recorded 13,730 civilian casualties of explosive weapons use in Gaza in 2023 (9,708 killed, 4,022 injured), across 974 incidents. Gaza consequently accounts for 39% of global civilian harm from explosive weapons in 2023, as well as a staggering 61% of global civilian fatalities. 99% (13,595) of civilian casualties in Gaza last year occurred on and after October 7th. The low levels of recorded injuries are likely reflective of the fact that injuries often go under-reported in high casualty incidents, especially given the scale of Israel’s bombardment of the enclave.

At least 1,114 civilian casualties were reported as children, 571 as women, and 631 as men. 231 armed actor casualties were also recorded in Gaza in 2023, 181 of whom have been killed and 50 injured.

AOAV’s data for the Occupied Palestinian Territories is a significant underrepresentation of levels of civilian harm, due to the challenges facing reporters and casualty recorders on the ground and the lack of incident-specific reporting, as required by AOAV’s methodology.

99% (963) of recorded incidents of explosive weapons use in Gaza occurred in populated areas last year. These attacks resulted in 13,714 recorded civilian casualties – 99.9% of total civilian harm in Gaza in 2023. In particular, 70% (9,645) of civilian casualties occurred in urban residential areas, 12% (1,599) in encampments, and 6% (839) in hospitals. 

State actors, specifically the Israeli armed forces, were the reported perpetrators of 98% (13,429) of total civilian casualties and 97% (9,433) of civilian fatalities, across 951 recorded incidents. The remaining 301 civilian casualties were attributed to unknown actors, largely in the context of contested strikes. In comparison, in 2022, AOAV recorded 28 incidents of state-perpetrated explosive weapons use in Gaza, and 149 resulting civilian casualties. 

Overall, 2023 witnessed the highest levels of explosive violence by state actors in Gaza in AOAV’s records, with the second highest being 407 incidents recorded in 2014 (3,746 civilian casualties). 15 attacks by non-state actors were also recorded in Gaza last year, which resulted in the death and injury of 87 IDF personnel. Of these incidents, 13 were attributed to Hamas and two to unknown non-state actors, representing the highest level of non-state use of explosive weapons recorded in the territory since 2010. 

The vast majority of civilian harm, 93% (12,819), occurred as a result of air-launched weapons. AOAV recorded 893 incidents of aerial attacks in Gaza, 892 of which were attributed to Israel. These 892 attacks caused 12,816 civilian casualties (8,957 killed). On average, therefore, 14.4 civilians were harmed per recorded Israeli air strike, and 10 killed. 225 civilians were killed and injured by ground-launched weapons(158 fatalities), all attributed to 46 attacks by the Israeli armed forces.

Operation Swords of Iron has made its impact felt across the enclave, with incidents of explosive weapons use in the territory rising by 3,259% compared to 29 in 2022, and civilian casualties rising by 8,701%, up from 156. Civilian fatalities rose by 26,138%, from 37. Across the enclave, 21 towns and cities were impacted by explosive violence last year, the highest number since 2010. The worst impacted were Gaza City (3,694 civilian casualties), Jabalia (2,925), Khan Younis (2,464), Deir al Balah (1,958), and Rafah (1,428).

The operation by Israel has been characterised by intense civilian suffering from attacks targeting essential infrastructure, the blocking of aid and cutting off of essential services, and the paralysis of the international community as a growing polarisation becomes visible around the world. 

As civilians in Gaza face the deadliest Israeli military operation yet, there is an urgent need to uphold and promote International Humanitarian Law, as well as the commitments of the Arms Trade Treaty and the Political Declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, signed in November 2022.

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