Israeli Military in Syria & the Gaza Strip

A child uses his mobile device in the ruins of a building in Beit Lahia, Gaza Strip on May 26th 2021. © Mohamed Zaanoun

This resource presents Airwars’ ongoing monitoring of civilian harm allegations resulting from reported Israeli strikes in Syria; as well as from the May 2021 conflict in Gaza, and Palestinian rocket fire into Israel during the same period.

Israel’s recent intervention in Syria began in January 2013, when its aircraft struck a convoy allegedly carrying weapons from Syria to Hezbollah militants. Since that date Israel has carried out hundreds of declared and undeclared strikes against Iranian-linked militant groups.

Despite the relative intensity of the Israeli campaign, Syrians themselves have reported relatively low levels of civilian harm – far lower than from many other foreign actors fighting in Syria. This appears linked to Israel mostly striking military targets, in lower population areas.

In May 2021 Israeli forces fought a very different campaign, with Palestinian militants in Gaza – the fourth since 2008. After just eleven days, Israeli forces had killed – by minimum estimates – at least ten times as many civilians in Gaza as they had in eight years of operations in Syria.

Israeli strikes on densely populated areas of Gaza were a particular driver of civilian harm – leading to high casualty levels similar to other city battles such as Raqqa. By presenting the two Israeli campaigns together, we hope to encourage critical debate on why outcomes for civilians can so radically differ – and how such high casualties can be prevented in future.

Known civilian harm claims can be accessed either via our interactive mapping, or via the ‘Civilian Casualties’ tabs above.

57 – 105 civilians alleged killed in
Syria by Israeli strikes over 3,594 days
167 – 212 civilians alleged killed in
the Gaza Strip by Israeli strikes over 10 days

Airwars estimate of civilian deaths from IDF actions in Syria, 2013–present

17–45

Locally reported civilian deaths from declared or likely Israeli Military strikes in Syria for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by the Israeli Military. These originate from 18 separate alleged incidents.

2–3 children likely killed
2 women likely killed
46–105 likely injured
15 named victims

Israeli Military estimate of civilian deaths

0

Confirmed civilian deaths, from Israeli Military strikes in Syria, originating from 1 separate incidents of civilian harm.

0 civilians confirmed injured

Alleged deaths 57–105

Locally reported civilian deaths from Israeli Military strikes in Syria.

32 separate alleged incidents

Confirmed or fair
Confirmed: A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
Fair: Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
17–45

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by the Israeli Military.

18 separate alleged incidents

Weak
Weak: Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
1

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Weak.

1 separate alleged incidents

Contested
Contested: Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
40–59

Civilian deaths for which the reporting is assessed by Airwars as Contested.

13 separate alleged incidents

Discounted
Discounted: Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.

Civilian deaths were Discounted by Airwars after assessment.

0 separate alleged incidents

Airwars estimate of civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip from IDF strikes, May 2021

151–191

Locally reported civilian deaths from declared or likely Israeli Military strikes in the Gaza strip for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by the Israeli Military. These originate from 116 separate alleged incidents.

56–63 children likely killed
24–27 women likely killed
554–744 likely injured
169 named victims

Israeli Military estimate of civilian deaths

0

Confirmed civilian deaths, from Israeli Military strikes in the Gaza Strip, originating from 1 separate incidents of civilian harm.

0 civilians confirmed injured

Alleged deaths 167–212

Locally reported civilian deaths from Israeli Military strikes in the Gaza strip.

126 separate alleged incidents

Confirmed or fair
Confirmed: A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
Fair: Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
151–191

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by the Israeli Military.

116 separate alleged incidents

Weak
Weak: Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
1

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Weak.

5 separate alleged incidents

Contested
Contested: Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
15–20

Civilian deaths for which the reporting is assessed by Airwars as Contested.

5 separate alleged incidents

Discounted
Discounted: Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.

Civilian deaths were Discounted by Airwars after assessment.

0 separate alleged incidents

Reported civilian deaths from Israeli Military strikes in Syria, 2013–2021

Due to large variations in the quality of reporting, Airwars provisionally grades allegations of civilian harm using a standardised methodology across all belligerents and conflicts. The five categories are explained in full on our Methodology page. Individual events are recorded in the Civilian Casualties pages.

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Credit: Airwars Graphic
Source: Airwars

Reported civilian deaths from Israeli Military strikes in the Gaza Strip, May 2021

Due to large variations in the quality of reporting, Airwars provisionally grades allegations of civilian harm using a standardised methodology across all belligerents and conflicts. The five categories are explained in full on our Methodology page. Individual events are recorded in the Civilian Casualties pages.

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Source: Airwars

Number of unique sources Airwars identified per assessment in Gaza and Israel May 2021, and Syria 2013-2021

This presents each civilian harm assessment according to the number of unique local sources Airwars has identified, where Israel or Palestinian factions were alleged responsible. Clustering shows both more civilian harm events and more unique sources per incident in Gaza in May 2021 compared to the other theatres. The number of unique sources per civilian harm event across all arenas clusters between 10 and 40, while Gaza exceptionally had several incidents with 100 or more sources.

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Credit: Airwars Graphic
Source: Airwars

Minimum reported civilian deaths by likely Israeli action in Gaza, May 2021, by time of day

This stacks the minimum number of likely civilian deaths according to reported demographics by time of day. Most civilian casualties were reported at night.

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Credit: Airwars Graphic
Source: Airwars

Average age of civilian casualties per harm event, Gaza and Israel May 2021

Each data point represents a civilian harm assessment in Gaza or Israel during May 2021, which has been categorised by the average age of all casualties reported. As the graph shows, most civilians harmed in Israel were older persons who in many cases would have been less able to quickly access shelters.

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Credit: Airwars Graphic
Source: Airwars