Israeli soldiers take positions near the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel, Dec. 11, 2023. (AP)

December 2 - 8, 2023

Mapping the war

The war in Gaza reached its third month as Israel continued to strike alleged Hamas targets. Mounting Palestinian casualties, many of them civilians, have drawn concern from around the world, with the U.S. and other allies warning Israel that it risks losing public support. The deaths of Israeli hostages, as well as soldiers, due to friendly fire have also raised questions about Israel’s rules of engagement. Meanwhile, Yemen-based Houthi militants have continued to target commercial shipping in the Red Sea, and intensified attacks across the Lebanese and Syrian borders have raised the threat of a wider regional conflict.

Israel formally declared war for the first time since 1973 following a surprise attack by Hamas militants on October 7, 2023 that killed over 1,200 Israelis and captured over 200 more as hostages. Since then, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have carried out a sustained bombing campaign against Hamas targets, while ground troops have conducted large-scale offensives in the northern Gaza Strip.

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, is a nongovernmental organization that collects and analyzes data on political violence worldwide. This story uses ACLED data to track reported instances of violent conflict in Israel and the surrounding region across four categories: battles, explosions/remote violence, intercepted attacks and violence against civilians. The map shows the previous week of events according to ACLED data. Scroll through the categories below to see each type of event and its reported location, along with an explanation of the groups involved and their capabilities.

On the Battlefield


Military operations have continued throughout the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank. While Israeli forces claim to have neutralized key Hamas targets and infrastructure, much of the fighting has taken place in civilian areas, such as hospitals and refugee camps, causing high Palestinian casualties. Israeli casualties have also increased during the ground offensive, with nearly one-fifth killed by accidents and friendly fire. Meanwhile, the northern border has seen increased crossfire and skirmishes with Hezbollah, as well as the official Lebanese military. (Updated: December 18, 2023)

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is considered one of the most highly trained and best-equipped militaries in the Middle East, maintained through mandatory conscription of most non-Arab citizens over age 18. In addition to 169,500 active duty personnel and 465,000 reservists, the IDF also has over 2,200 tanks, 530 artillery pieces, 339 combat aircraft, 142 helicopters, 49 naval ships and five submarines.

Following the attacks by Hamas, the IDF mobilized over 350,000 reservists. A significant portion of its forces have been stationed near the border with the Gaza Strip. Twenty-five battalions have also been deployed to the West Bank as violent clashes between Palestinian residents and Israeli settlers have intensified. Additional troops have also been deployed to the northern border with Lebanon following attacks from the militant group Hezbollah.

Number of battles per day

In Israeli and Palestinian-controlled areas.

Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group, operates as both a civil administration and a militant organization in the Gaza Strip. Its armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, is estimated to have up to 40,000 fighters, with an arsenal of guns, drones, bombs and rocket artillery that is locally manufactured and smuggled in from abroad. The group uses a vast network of tunnels for storage, training and military operations, which allow it to avoid detection by Israeli surveillance.

During the October 7 attacks, Hamas also used improvised civilian equipment, including pickup trucks, bulldozers and paragliders. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has no military capability outside of its police force, which is 45,000 strong and has weaponry ranging from handguns to light machine guns, as well as a few armored vehicles.

There are also a number of militant groups such as the Jenin Brigades and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades that operate in the area.

Operating out of Lebanon, Hezbollah is a well-equipped and well-trained military force, due to direct Iranian support. A U.S.-designated terrorist group, Hezbollah is also a major political party in Lebanon. Numbering about 20,000 fighters and 30,000 reservists, the group is considered the world’s most heavily armed non-state actor, with an arsenal ranging from small arms and heavy machine guns to air defense systems, long-range artillery, drones and even several dozen battle tanks.

The number of armed clashes in the region between December 9 - 15, 2023 This category tracks any violent altercation between two or more armed groups that involves some degree of direct engagement or return fire, even if remote strikes or attacks on civilians also occur as part of the same event. Multiple altercations between the same parties within the same day are usually recorded as a single battle.

Explosions and Remote Violence


The IDF has continued bombardment of the Gaza strip alongside its ground operations, including in Jabalia, Khan Younis and the Egyptian border crossing in Rafah. The targets have included hospitals, which the IDF claims are being used as Hamas bases, leading the World Health Organization to warn that Gaza’s medical infrastructure is on the brink of collapse. Hezbollah has also continued to fire missiles and drones across the Lebanese border, while IDF retaliatory strikes, which included the alleged use of white phosphorus, have hit the positions of both Hezbollah and the U.S.-backed Lebanese Armed Forces. Syria also reported that Israeli airstrikes on Damascus had caused damage and injuries, while Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi movement has continued to target vessels in the Red Sea with missiles and drones, causing concerns for international shipping. (Updated: December 18, 2023)

Rockets and mortars launched over the Gaza border fence are the primary means by which Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups attack Israeli targets. Rockets like the Qassam and al-Quds models used by these groups have ranges up to 16 kilometers, are easy to manufacture, fuel with common materials and do not require specialized launchers. Because they lack any guidance or targeting mechanism, they are generally launched indiscriminately toward populated areas, with anywhere from dozens to thousands fired in any given year.

Hamas also possesses a smaller number of more advanced missiles such as the Iranian-made Fajr-5 and the Syrian-made Khaibar-1, with ranges up to 150 kilometers. While most rockets are intercepted by Israeli defenses, some have killed small numbers of civilians and wounded hundreds more, along with causing significant property destruction and psychological impact. More recently, Hamas has also developed drones such as the Ababeel 1, capable of suicide attacks and dropping explosives.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have over 500 sophisticated ground-based artillery systems such as the M270 and the PULS (Precise and Universal Launch System), capable of firing multiple types of munitions ranging from Predator Hawk precision rockets to Delilah cruise missiles at ranges up to 400 kilometers. Israel’s air force boasts over 300 planes and 142 helicopters, and the country maintains hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles used for reconnaissance as well as attacking ground targets. Israel is also believed to have significant chemical weapons capability, and has been criticized for its use of white phosphorus, which creates visual cover for military operations but can also cause severe burns to civilians.

Hezbollah mostly uses Soviet-made artillery such as the M-46 howitzer, which has a range of 40 kilometers, along with rockets and missiles supplied by Iran, Syria and North Korea. The militant group also has dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles such as the Iranian-developed Ababil drones, as well as modified Chinese-made commercial models. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi movement also possesses ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel, as well as anti-ship missiles provided by Iran and other heavy weaponry captured from the Yemeni armed forces.

This category tracks one-sided attacks carried out through remote methods such as airstrikes, drones, chemical weapons, artillery, missiles, rockets or other types of explosives. Targets may include civilians, armed groups or both. Multiple strikes or explosions that occur within a single area on the same day are usually grouped together and recorded as a single event.

Intercepted attacks


Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel, reaching as far as Jerusalem, with some being intercepted and others falling near the Western Wall and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. No injuries have been reported. IDF operations in Gaza have reportedly uncovered strategic Hamas tunnels, seized munitions being stored at hospitals and destroyed rocket launch sites. Syria also reported that its air defenses had shot down Israeli missiles fired toward Damascus. Meanwhile, U.S. warships in the Red Sea downed multiple Houthi drones that were targeting commercial vessels. (Updated: December 18, 2023)

Since its deployment in 2011, Israel’s Iron Dome has played a major role in conflict. The all-weather air defense system consists of a radar and tracking system that detects incoming rockets, a control center that determines their likely point of impact and threat likelihood, and a mobile battery of three to four independently maneuverable launchers with 20 Tamir interceptor missiles in each.

Ten Iron Dome batteries are deployed throughout Israel, with each able to protect up to 150 square kilometers of territory. Israel claims that the system has an interception rate of over 90%, though researchers have disputed this figure. Like any missile defense system, the Iron Dome can be overwhelmed by large amounts of projectiles, and some commentators have claimed it would not be effective against more advanced types of ballistic and cruise missiles.

An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor missile as rockets are fired from Gaza into Sderot, Israel, May 10, 2023. (Reuters)

The air defenses of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups are mostly limited to shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, while Hezbollah also possesses Soviet-era anti-aircraft guns. These have been mostly ineffective against Israel’s air force, though militants have occasionally intercepted Israeli drones. However, Hezbollah may be able to acquire more advanced air defense systems from Russian groups.

The number of intercepted attacks in the region between December 9 - 15, 2023 This category tracks all attacks prevented or disrupted by means other than direct engagement of the attacker, including but not limited to missiles and other projectiles being intercepted or missing their targets, bombs being defused or weapons being seized. This includes the shooting down of unmanned drones but not attacks on piloted military aircraft. Multiple interceptions within a given area on the same day are recorded as a single event.

Violence against civilians


The Gaza Health Ministry reports that over 19,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 50,000 injured since October 7, with over two-thirds of the fatalities being women and children. Palestinian officials accused the IDF of crushing wounded patients with bulldozers during its attack on Kamal Adwan Hospital, and Pope Francis has condemned the apparent killing of two women outside a Gaza Catholic Church by Israeli snipers. The IDF’s mistaken shooting of three Israeli hostages who were holding a white flag has called its rules of engagement into question. Treatment of religious sites has also become an issue after aerial footage showed the IDF demolishing cemeteries in Gaza, and Israeli soldiers were filmed reciting a Jewish prayer inside a West Bank mosque they had raided. Meanwhile, human rights organizations have expressed concern that Palestinian prisoners in Israel are being held without due process in inhumane conditions. (Updated: December 18, 2023)

Before Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, suicide bombings were a frequent occurrence. Since then, the fortified border fence has drastically limited direct contact between Gazans and Israeli civilians. The situation has remained more complex in East Jerusalem and in the broader West Bank, where Israelis and Palestinians live. A partially completed West Bank barrier wall is claimed by Israel to have drastically reduced suicide bombings and other hostile infiltrations, but Palestinian militant groups, as well as lone individuals, have continued to carry out attacks such as arson, kidnappings, lynchings, shootings and stabbings.

The situation is exacerbated by the building of Israeli settlements in the occupied territory of the West Bank, which has been declared illegal under international law and threatens the viability of a future Palestinian state. Some Israeli settlers have attacked Palestinians in addition to seizing Palestinian land and destroying Palestinian property and crops, while Israeli security forces have been accused of failing to prevent settler violence and directly assaulting Palestinian civilians.

The number of attacks against civilians in the region between December 9 - 15, 2023 This category tracks any violence against unarmed noncombatants that is not already recorded elsewhere, including but not limited to extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, deliberate injury, abduction or forced disappearance. Civilians killed in airstrikes or during battles are recorded under the corresponding categories. Multiple acts of violence against the same group of civilians within the same day are recorded as a single event.

VOA staff writers contributed additional reporting for this story.

Map sources: USGS, Esri, TANA, DeLorme, and NPS, i-cubed, USDA, USGS, AEX, GeoEye, Getmapping, Aerogrid, IGN, IGP, UPR-EGP, Natural Earth and the GIS User Community