July 20, 2024
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Israel-Hamas war: Satellite data shows Israel intensifying bombing of south Gaza

For three weeks, Israel has been bombing the Gaza Strip as part of its war with Hamas.

The two sides have published conflicting accounts of the toll taken by the airstrikes. Satellite data gives us an independent view.

Every 12 days, NASA’s Sentinel-1 satellite passes three times over the Gaza Strip, firing out radar waves and listening for their echo. Buildings typically bounce the signals right back, but rubble scatters them in all directions.

By comparing signals before the war with those taken more recently, we can estimate the scope and scale of the destruction.

This map shows what Gaza looked like before the war, its population is densely clustered in Gaza City, in the far north, and the southern cities of Rafah and Khan Younis.

Map of buildings in the Gaza Strip, with major cities highlighted. SOURCE: Open Street Map
Map of buildings in the Gaza Strip, with major cities highlighted. SOURCE: Open Street Map

By 13 October, six days after Hamas launched its attacks in southern Israel, much of Gaza City had been hit by airstrikes.

The satellite data suggests that 15% of buildings in northern Gaza were damaged or destroyed in less than a week, along with 2% in southern Gaza.

That same day, Israel ordered all 1.1 million residents of northern Gaza to flee southwards to relative safety.

Since then, however, Israel has stepped up its bombing of the south.

The map below shows the estimated damage to buildings across Gaza on 13 and 25 October, with the most damaged areas highlighted in yellow.

Almost half of all new damage detected between 14 and 25 October was in southern Gaza (47%), up from 14% before the evacuation order.

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