December 1, 2023 | Breaking Defense

55 days of war: The Israel-Gaza conflict by the numbers

The conflict has caused an incalculable amount of human suffering, but other hard numbers can tell part of the story.
December 1, 2023 | Breaking Defense

55 days of war: The Israel-Gaza conflict by the numbers

The conflict has caused an incalculable amount of human suffering, but other hard numbers can tell part of the story.

JERUSALEM — The tenuous ceasefire expired today, as Israel resumed its aggressive counter-attack on Hamas in Gaza.

But for several days there was relative peace, offering a rare window to take stock of the war as it stretches near the two-month mark. While the cost in human suffering is incalculable, public figures provided by the Israeli government, Palestinian organizations and the United Nations tell a stark tale of their own.

After 55 days of war, here is the story, so far, told through the numbers involved:

The war began on Oct. 7 with an incursions at 29 locations on the Israel-Gaza security fence, a $1 billion dollar security barrier that failed to keep Hamas fighters back. Hamas overran border communities, killed more than 1,200 people and kidnapped an estimated 240 others — more than 80 of which have been released in recent days. Around 300 Israeli Defense Forces soldiers and 58 Israeli police were killed in the first days of fighting on the border.

In response, Israel called up 300,000 reservists early in the war and called up 50,000 more over the next month and a half. Jerusalem’s formal ground operation in Gaza began on Oct. 27, and since then another 77 soldiers have been killed.

The IDF estimated that on the eve of the war Hamas had “30,000 operatives inside the Gaza Strip, divided into five brigades, 24 battalions and approximately 140 companies,” according to a Nov. 14 statement. The number of Hamas fighters killed is difficult to determine, but the IDF said up to 3,000 met their end by Nov. 1 — a number obviously a full month out of date now, but the latest figure nonetheless. The IDF has also estimated that 10 of the overall 24 Hamas battalions have been engaged in Gaza. Some of them have suffered high casualties in fighting in northern Gaza.

The IDF has put out lists of 12 Hamas battalion commanders it says have been eliminated in the fighting, including key commanders of air defense and naval units. On Sunday, the IDF confirmed five additional senior Hamas commanders were eliminated in the Gaza Strip prior to the operational pause.

Until Oct. 27, 20 days into the conflict, the IDF did not provide detailed data on the number of targets struck in the air war, although for several days of the three-week air campaign it said between 150 and 400 targets were struck each night. In the first week of ground operations approximately 2,500 targets were hit, the IDF said on Nov. 5. By Nov. 10 the IDF said over 15,000 targets had been hit in total and 6,000 weapons seized in Gaza. By Nov. 22 the IDF said 400 tunnels had been destroyed.

The IDF air war involved dropping 1.5 million pamphlets urging civilians to leave northern Gaza in mid-October. The IDF also said it made 5,998,382 recorded calls and sent more than 4 million messages to Gazans. Still, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, Israel’s aerial bombardment and counterattack there have claimed the lives of more than 14,000 people. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists57 journalists and media workers have been killed during the conflict, the vast majority of those being Palestinian.

The UN said that within the first days of the fighting, 1 million people had been displaced in Gaza. In Israel, around 120,000 civilians have been evacuated from border communities. This includes 54 communities near the Gaza border and 42 communities along the Lebanese border, along with the cities of Sderot in the south and Kiryat Shmona near Lebanon. The Ministry of Defense said it has also renovated hundreds of bomb shelters in Kiryat Smona and built a total of 160 new shelters in Ashkelon and 190 in Nahariya, according to a Nov. 27 statement from the Ministry.

Rocket fire from Gaza reached an unprecedented level on the first day of the war with around 3,000 launches. Israel estimated 9,500 were fired by Nov. 9. The IDF also estimated that 12 percent of those fired towards Israel malfunctioned and fell short. (For comparison, during the 2006 33-day war between Israel and Hezbollah, around 4,000 rockets were launched.) Israel’s air defenses have been challenged in the war, intercepting more than 2,000 rockets and mortars.

Lebanon And Red Sea Fronts

While the Gaza war raged, Israel also skirmished with Lebanese Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border and came under sporadic attack from Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.

The overall attacks from Lebanon include at least 100 incidents of anti-tank fire, Breaking Defense calculated based on IDF daily statements. The readouts also include more than 30 incidents of mortars fired and dozens of incidents of rockets fired, many of them involving numerous rockets.

Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Nov. 26 that 100 Hezbollah members were injured or eliminated over the last month and a half. Two IDF soldiers have been killed in attacks from Lebanon, and several other soldiers wounded since Oct. 7. Two Israeli civilians have also been killed and several wounded, according to news reports over the last month and a half.

Threats from Yemen have resulted in several interventions by US warships. The USS Carney intercepted drones and missiles fired from Yemen on Oct. 19 and then again on Nov. 29. The USS Thomas Hudner intercepted more drones on Nov. 22. Missiles fired from Yemen also landed ten nautical miles from the USS Mason on Nov. 26, though the Pentagon said the Mason was unlikely the actual target of that attack.

There have also been 74 attacks on US forces in the region by various groups, the Pentagon said Thursday.

There have been at least 16 instances of threats to Israel’s southern city of Eilat on the Red Sea since the beginning of the war, according to a Breaking Defense count based on IDF statements. Israel has used its Arrow air defense system and F-35s to shoot down missile and cruise missile threats from Yemen.

Israel has stepped up operations in the West Bank as well since Oct. 7. A Palestinian NGO said that there had been 3,290 arrests in the West Bank since the war began.

War Production

The requirement to produce munitions has put Israel into a war economy. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which makes Iron Dome, as well as Spike missiles and other munitions such as the FireFly loitering munition and Trophy APS, has been in 24/7 production since the war began, Israel’s Prime Minister officer said on Nov. 21.

Israel’s M109 artillery which uses 155mm shells has gone through a large number of shells since the war began. According to an interview with one commander, an artillery brigade went through 10,000 shells in the first month of the war with each battalion using up to 3,500.

Israel’s Ministry of Defense said it secured 7,000 tons of foreign equipment on 123 cargo flights and seven ships by Nov. 9. Israel has also acquired small arms, such as M4 rifles for local security guards. The US, for instance, has made at least five deliveries of equipment since the war’s outbreak, reportedly including missiles and ammunition.

The Israel Ministry of Defense also has contracted with 8,900 local suppliers for various items, spending more than $1 billion on these supplies.

In all, in dollar figures, earlier this week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu submitted a “giant” $8 billion budget meant to fund a month and a half for “all of the war needs.”

Over the last few days, more than 80 Israelis hostages have been released, in exchange for 180 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

But perhaps the most important figure is a relatively small one: seven. That’s how many days the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas lasted, and with it gone, expect just about every number mentioned above to rise.

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.


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