At least half of Gaza’s buildings damaged or destroyed, new analysis shows

A Palestinian woman in front of a destroyed building in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on January 16, 2024,

By Daniele Palumbo, Abdelrahman Abutaleb, Paul Cusiac & Erwan Rivault

BBC Verify & BBC Arabic

More than half of Gaza’s buildings have been damaged or destroyed since Israel launched its retaliation for the Hamas attacks of 7 October, new analysis seen by the BBC reveals.

Detailed before-and-after imagery also shows how the bombardment of southern and central Gaza has intensified since the start of December, with the city of Khan Younis bearing much of the brunt of Israel’s military action.

Israel has repeatedly told Gazans to move south for their own safety.

Across Gaza, residential areas have been left ruined, previously busy shopping streets reduced to rubble, universities destroyed and farmlands churned up, with tent cities springing up on the southern border to house many thousands of people left homeless.

About 1.7 million people – more than 80% of Gaza’s population – are displaced, with nearly half crammed in the far southern end of the strip, according to the United Nations.

Further analysis, by BBC Verify, reveals the scale of destruction of farmland, identifying multiple areas of extensive damage.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has said it is targeting both Hamas fighters and “terror infrastructure”, when challenged over the scale of damage.

Now, satellite data analysis obtained by the BBC shows the true extent of the destruction. The analysis suggests between 144,000 and 175,000 buildings across the whole Gaza Strip have been damaged or destroyed. That’s between 50% and 61% of Gaza’s buildings.

The analysis, carried out by Corey Scher of City University of New York and Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University, compares images to reveal sudden changes in the height or structure of buildings which indicate damage.

ou can clearly see the level of damage from street level. Once bustling high streets have been left derelict or destroyed.

These images show the front of the Shawarma Sanabel restaurant before Israel’s invasion, and how the same junction looked in a composite image from January after intense bombardment of the area.

An image showing a restaurant in Khan Younis before the Israeli invasion and another showing the same restaurant surrounded by destroyed or badly damaged buildings in January

The IDF has repeatedly justified its actions by noting that Hamas deliberately embeds itself in civilian areas and explained destruction of buildings in the light of targeting fighters. But questions have been asked about destruction of buildings seemingly firmly in the control of the IDF.

One example was the Israa University, in northern Gaza – initially badly damaged shortly before being blown up completely in what looked like a massive controlled explosion. The video was widely shared on social media and the IDF says the approval process for the blast is now being investigated.

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