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More civilians killed in war in 2023 than any of the previous 13 years

An annual study has found 2023 saw more civilians killed in armed conflict than any other year for more than a decade.

According to Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), 33,846 civilians were killed by airstrikes, bombs or artillery last year. That was a 62% increase on the previous year and the highest since 2010.

It exceeds the total number of casualties than what was recorded at the height of the Syrian civil war and the Western campaign against ISIS between 2013 and 2017. The total killed then was regularly over 30,000, reports the Guardian.

AOAV basis its figures from English language reports of global incidents. It means the real number of casualities is likely to be greater as media accounts will not record all dead and wounded.

The group however uses the same methodology to calculate fatalities each year, meaning it can create a global picture of civilian deaths. Wars in Ukraine, Sudan and Gaza contributed to the increase in deaths in 2023.

Iain Overton, the group’s executive director, said: “Last year proved to be the most harmful to civilians from explosive violence since our monitor began in 2010.”

Overton said the Hamas surprise attack on October 7 and subsequent conflict between Israel and Hamas caused a spike in civilian deaths. He added: “Gaza almost overwhelmed our capacity to record each individual and injurious reported strike.”

The AOAV said Israel‘s “Swords of Justice” campaign in Gaza accounted for almost 37% of civilian casualities last year. In Gaza its data recorded 9,334 civilians killed and 3,616 injured.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry does not distinguish between civilian and combatant deaths. It claims 22,835 people have been killed on the Strip and 58,416 injured since October 7.

The fighting in the Middle East, in which Israel has struck hundreds of targets a day, meant the numbers of people reproted as killed or wounded in Gaza exceeded an entire year of fighting in Ukraine – where 8,351 were killed – and Sudan, where civil war broke out in April with 2,546 casualties.

Across the globe, 46,500 casualties were recorded as a result of violence. Around 73% were civilians, a proportion that rises to 90% in urban areas. Some 15,305 were killed and the rest wounded.

Overton says each airstrike in Gaza where a civilian was injured saw an average of 11.1 deaths. Previously that number would have averaged around 2.5 deaths.

It is though 12,950 civilian casualties from explosive violence – death or injury from airstrikes, artillery attacks or other bombs – were recorded by the group in Gaza during 2023 plus a further 420 in Israel. Casualties from shootings, stabbings are not counted in the data.

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