Updated Apr 7, 2024 - World

Gaza buildings and land decimated in 6 months of war

Data: Damage analysis of Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite data by Corey Scher of CUNY Graduate Center and Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University; Map: Will Chase/Axios

Israel's bombardment of Gaza in the six months since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack has flattened buildings, decimated agricultural land, and destroyed critical infrastructure in the Strip to such a degree that rebuilding its economy could take decades, per a UN report.

The big picture: Strikes have hit every population center along the Strip, killing more than 33,000 people, and displacing about 85% of Gaza's population.

  • More than 100 Israelis are still being held hostage in Gaza.
  • Even prior to Oct. 7, years of Israeli blockade and military operations in the densely-populated enclave left many in Gaza with inadequate access to clean water, electricity or sewer.
  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimates if the war were to end today, it could take Gaza 70 years to restore its 2022 levels of GDP.

The latest: Between Oct. 7 and Apr. 2, Israeli military operations damaged or destroyed more than 50% of buildings in the Gaza Strip, including more than 70% in the northern regions, according to an analysis of satellite data conducted by Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University and Corey Scher of CUNY Graduate Center.

  • Israeli strikes have destroyed schools, bakeries, mosques and cultural heritage sites in Gaza.
  • Medical infrastructure has become a point of focus, with reports finding Israel systematically targeted hospitals in Gaza.
  • Israel says Hamas militants use these buildings for shelter.

A separate satellite analysis of agricultural damage by He Yin of Kent State University found Israeli operations destroyed roughly 50% of tree crops and 42% of greenhouses within Gaza.

  • Yin tells Axios the level of destruction "is much higher than other war-affected places I have studied, such as Chechnya and Syria."
Data: Damage analysis of 3-m PlanetScope imagery © Planet Labs PBC by He Yin of Kent State University; Map: Will Chase/Axios

Between the lines: Destruction of agricultural land is particularly harmful because agriculture is vital to the local economy and culture, and famine is looming over Gaza.

  • Many of the olive groves in northern Gaza were destroyed or weren't harvested in October and November when Israel invaded the region, incurring huge losses for farmers, says Naser Qadous, senior program director for agriculture and livelihood at the aid organization Anera.
  • The price of vegetables grown in greenhouses also quickly inflated, he says.
  • But it is "not only the destruction of the greenhouse itself but also the value chain. There are some greenhouses that are still existing [but] farmers are not able to access these greenhouses and take care of their plants. It is very risky."

Olive trees, a main agricultural crop in Gaza, are also an important cultural symbol for Palestinians.

  • "These trees lived through my moments of joy and sadness," Khaled Baraka, a resident of Gaza told Al Jazeera. "They know my secrets. When I was sad and worried, I would talk to the trees, take care of them … but the war killed those trees."

What they're saying: An investigation by a digital forensics team at the University of London found Israel has "systematically targeted" agricultural land and infrastructure during the siege.

The other side: The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) tells Axios "in stark contrast to Hamas' intentional attacks on Israeli men, women and children, the IDF follows international law and takes feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm and reduce impact or damage on the agricultural areas and the environment."

  • They say Hamas often operates from within orchards, fields and agricultural land.

What's next: A plan for the reconstruction of Gaza remains in limbo. Israel's proposal stresses demilitarization of the Strip and alludes to financing from the Arab states to rebuild Gaza.

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