February 20, 2024 | Breaking Defense

Israeli Air Force struck 31,000 targets in four months of war

New government numbers show roughly 228 targets struck by airstrikes every day of the conflict, significantly more than any previous IDF effort.
February 20, 2024 | Breaking Defense

Israeli Air Force struck 31,000 targets in four months of war

New government numbers show roughly 228 targets struck by airstrikes every day of the conflict, significantly more than any previous IDF effort.

The Israeli Air Force has struck 31,000 targets on multiple fronts since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas, according to new data released by the IDF.

The report, which covers everything from unmanned strikes to close-air support efforts by manned jets, gives the clearest picture of the amount of firepower Israel has brought to its efforts to root out Hamas — an average of roughly 228 targets struck every day of the conflict. (The IDF doesn’t define what it means by a “target,” so it is possible that the number of munitions used is actually larger if each target involved multiple weapons.”) Artillery strikes, which have also been part of the IDF response, are not accounted for in this report, which is just focused on air-launched weapons.

This conflict has been Israel’s most intense in recent memory by any measure. The number of targets struck by the Air Force in the first four months are more than twice as many, on a daily average, than those struck in 2014 during fifty days of war. In the eleven-day conflict in May 2021, Israel struck around 1,500 targets, again a significantly lower per-day average.

According to the report, 29,000 of the targets were in Gaza, hardly a surprise given the focus of Israel’s efforts. The IDF spent the first few weeks of the war in October shaping the battlefield with airstrikes, usually hundreds each night. On Nov. 12 the IDF said it had struck 15,000 targets in Gaza, meaning almost half the strikes of the entire conflict occurred in the first five weeks; the large number of targets generated in the early days of the war was credited to use of new technology, including AI, as well as strike cells at IDF southern command and close coordination with ground forces.

The northern front, where Israel has faced thousands of rocket attacks by Hezbollah, as well as drone and ATGM attacks, has also seen daily Israeli air force operations, although the sheer volume is less, with the report claiming 1,100 strikes were carried out in the north. Notably, an Israeli release on Jan. 14 claimed 750 targets the IDF said had been struck, meaning in the last five weeks the strikes in Lebanon have increased by 68 percent.

Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant highlighted the air force role in the north and has sought to deter Hezbollah from further attacks, noting the airplanes noses are “pointed” north.

In addition thirty airstrikes were carried out in the West Bank. Prior to the escalation in fighting that occurred in early 2023 in the West Bank, Israel did not carry out airstrikes in that region for two decades.

The report provides some more granularity on what kind of strikes were called for. In Gaza, warplanes and UAVs were called upon to carry out 7,000 “lightning strikes,” a term meaning forces in the field called in the strikes in response to an immediate threat or urgent request.

The air force has said this war has seen strikes carried out in close proximity to infantry and armored units, up to eighty meters from troops. Back on Nov. 6, the IDF said F-35s had carried out airstrikes as close as 200 meters from troops. Since then, this precision, and willingness to use it so close to friendly forces, has improved. The air force specified the closest strike was carried out on Nov. 18 to eliminate an anti-tank missile threat against the 401st armored brigade.

The air strikes have mostly been carried out by Israeli war planes, such as F-35s and F-16s. In addition, the IDF operates armed UAVs, such as the Hermes 450 Zik, and also uses Apache helicopters.

The Gaza Health Ministry has claimed that more than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli strikes since the war began, while the Israeli government has claimed 10,000 Hamas militants.

Defensive Efforts

The war against Hamas and the rocket fire from Hezbollah has tested Israel’s air defenses more than in any previous war, thanks to a volume of rocket fire previously unseen. Between Oct. 7 and Jan. 9, over 9,000 rockets entered Israeli airspace from Gaza. Israel has also faced long range missile and drone threats from the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.

While the Iron Dome system has intercepted most of the threats, the David’s Sling medium range air defense system has performed more interceptions in this war than any previous conflict. The system, which first intercepted an incoming threat in May 2023, now seen dozens of interceptions, although the IAF doesn’t provide a precise number. The Arrow system also has intercepted six missile threats, with Arrow-3 notching its first successful wartime intercept in November.

The Israeli Air Force says that it shifted personnel from Patriot batteries to its Iron Dome batteries. “The process is intended to benefit the establishment of additional Iron Dome batteries in the future. According to the plan, within a few weeks, the first additional operational Iron Dome battery will be opened,” the IAF said.

Israeli helicopters have been active in supporting evacuations of Israeli soldiers from Gaza, where the government says over 230 IDF members have been killed in fighting. The report said 500 medical evacuations were conducted, bringing more than 1,161 soldiers back. Helicopters remained on the ground in Gaza during these missions a very short time, an average of sixty seconds, and injured personnel were transported to hospital within almost an hour, on average.

Half the wounded evacuated by helicopter were taken out in the first month of ground operations, compared to the next two months between Dec. 10 and Feb. 20, based on the data from the IAF and previous IDF reports.

Seth Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Lebanon Military and Political Power