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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
by Niels de Hoog, Antonio Voce, Elena Morresi, Manisha Ganguly and Ashley Kirk

How war destroyed Gaza’s neighbourhoods – visual investigation

A Guardian investigation has detailed the mass destruction of buildings and land in three neighbourhoods in Gaza.

Using satellite imagery and open-source evidence, the investigation found damage to more than 250 residential buildings, 17 schools and universities, 16 mosques, three hospitals, three cemeteries and 150 agricultural greenhouses.

Entire buildings have been levelled, fields flattened and places of worship wiped off the map in the course of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, launched after the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October.

The destruction has not only forced 1.9 million people to leave their homes but also made it impossible for many to return. This has led some experts to describe what is happening in Gaza as “domicide”, defined as the widespread, deliberate destruction of the home to make it uninhabitable, preventing the return of displaced people. The concept is not recognised in law.

The Israeli military says that its fight is against Hamas and not Gaza, that its bombardment is proportional to the threat posed by Hamas and that it is making every effort to warn citizens of imminent attacks.

An IDF spokesperson told the Guardian: “Hamas operates nearby, underneath, and within densely populated areas as a matter of routine operational practice. As part of the IDF’s operations, it [has] been carrying out strikes on military targets, as well as locating and destroying infrastructure when imperatively required to achieve the goals of the war.”

Rajagopal, Azzouz and Coward all said the evidence in the Guardian investigation was in line with their understanding of events in Gaza as a form of domicide.

“The utter annihilation of Beit Hanoun and the destruction of al-Zahra and Khan Younis, are evidence that Israeli use of force has made life impossible by making them uninhabitable,” said Rajagopal, the UN rapporteur. “All that matters to live a dignified and secure life is destroyed and that is not legal or legitimate under any sense of a law-based world.”

Coward, the Queen Mary University professor, said: “The destruction of homes plays a key role in both the displacement – communities cannot return if they have no home to return to – and the destruction of communities, as homes are destroyed and families displaced so all the things that make a community cohesive are destroyed and they are scattered to many different places.”

Azzouz said: “The Guardian investigation shows how Israel weaponises architecture in Gaza, destroying Palestinians’ cultural heritage sites and their everyday urban fabric.”

Displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, shelter in a tent camp in Khan Younis
Displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, shelter in a tent camp in Khan Younis Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Corey Scher and Jamon Van Den Hoek estimate that between 142,900 and 176,900 buildings had been damaged as of 17 January, which raises questions on how to rehabilitate Gaza when the war ends.

Coward added: “Looking at the images of al-Zahra, Khan Yunis and Beit Hanoun there is widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure such as schools, universities and shops. This destruction not only kills and displaces civilians, it destroys the sense that these places are home to a particular way of life. If you can’t shop or learn, you can’t form a sense of belonging or call a place home.”


Satellite imagery has been sourced from Planet Labs. Images prior to the 2023 conflict were taken in May 2023, while the damage evidence presented is from images taken on 30 November and 31 December 2023 and 5 January 2024. Satellite imagery from other dates was used for verification purposes. Some satellite imagery has also been sourced from Copernicus Sentinel.

The videos of the Beit Hanoun school and the Turkish-Palestinian friendship hospital were taken from social media footage that the Guardian has verified. The footage from the car in Beit Hanoun and the footage of the Khaled bin al-Walid mosque in Khan Younis were released by Reuters. The drone footage of the al-Zahra residential area was released by Getty. The footage of the street in Khan Younis was released by Associated Press.

Damaged areas have been verified against satellite imagery, user-generated multimedia footage, news reports or IDF updates.

The analysis by Corey Scher of the City University of New York and Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University only covers building damage, while the Guardian’s assessment also recorded agricultural damage.

To establish the existence and identity of particular areas or buildings, the Guardian used a variety of sources including UNOSAT damage analysis, social media, local news reports, company websites, Planet Labs, Open Street Maps, MapCarta, WikiMapia, Google Earth, Google Maps and

An area was confirmed as damaged only if two or more reporters managed to verify it.

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