Analysis of Rocket Attacks to Israel and Worldwide
Hamas launched more than 2,500 rockets, and thousands of its militants stormed into Israel using paragliders, motorbikes, and various other vehicles, on October 7, 2023. The attack overwhelmed Israeli defenses, resulting in the loss of more than 1,400 lives. Using GRID data, this analysis examines rocket attacks in Israel and worldwide, focusing on locations, trends, perpetrator groups, and fatality rates since 2018. In this analysis, “rocket attacks” refer to artillery and other ground-to-ground munitions propelled by their explosive or fuel charge, designed for delivering payloads over medium-range distances.
From January 2019 through August 2023, Israel experienced 212 rocket attacks that resulted in 15 fatalities. Notably, within this four-years-and-eight-months period, Israel experienced the most rocket attacks in 2021 (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Rocket Attacks to Israel From January 2019 Through August 2023
The Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was responsible for the most-frequent attacks against Israel since 2022, followed by Hamas. During the first eight months of 2023, PIJ was involved in 16 rocket attacks, while Hamas was involved in 10. Additionally, a significant portion of these rocket attacks came from unknown perpetrators, accounting for seven attacks in 2023.
Israel has managed to maintain a very low fatality rate from rocket attacks, compared with other targeted countries. Among the 212 rocket attacks, 94 percent of them resulted in no fatalities. Israel had an exceptionally low average fatality rate of 0.07 per rocket attack, remarkably lower than the global average fatality rate for rocket attacks, which stands significantly higher at 1.33. The global average fatality rate is 19 times as high as that in Israel during our period of study.
This achievement, on the one hand, can be attributed largely to the effectiveness of the Israeli Iron Dome defense system, designed to intercept incoming rockets in midair. On the other hand, the effectiveness of the Iron Dome system might create a false sense of security for Israel, potentially underestimating Hamas’s preparations in Gaza for attacks—as seen in the events leading up to October 7.
Figure 2. Rocket Attacks Worldwide From 2019 Through August 2023
During the same period (January 2019 through August 2023), there were 1,161 rocket attacks worldwide. The total fatalities from these attacks were 1,554, resulting in a fatality rate of 1.33 per incident.
While Israel was the second-most-targeted country with rocket attacks, other attacks were carried out frequently in conflict regions such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Libya and led to remarkably more fatalities than attacks against Israel.
Global Terrorism Trends and Analysis Center (GTTAC). (2023). GTTAC Global Record of Incident Database, 2018–23 [data file]. Retrieved October 12, 2023, from https://www.gttac.com/data.