Nearly a fifth of Gaza’s buildings destroyed or damaged: UN estimate

December 14, 2023 - 4:19 PM
The remains of Al-Azhar University of Gaza is seen, amid the ongoing ground operation of the Israeli army against Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, November 22, 2023. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

 Nearly 40,000 buildings, or about 18% of all pre-conflict structures, have been damaged or destroyed in the Gaza Strip since the conflict began on Oct. 7, a U.N. assessment showed on Tuesday.

Israeli forces unleashed an aerial and ground blitz against Hamas in Gaza after deadly cross-border attacks by the enclave’s ruling Islamist group on Oct. 7. Around 1.9 million people, or about 85% of the population, have fled their homes as a result.

The latest estimate, based on a Nov. 26 image, was produced by the United Nations Satellite Centre, where analysts examine very high resolution satellite images to find damaged buildings and publish maps that can guide relief work and rebuilding plans during natural disasters and conflicts.

Estimates such as this based on high-resolution satellite images might still under-estimate the scale of destruction since they do not show all building damage – for example, a collapsed building with an intact roof can look undamaged.

“There has been a 49% increase in the total number of damaged structures, highlighting the escalating impact of the conflict on civilian infrastructures,” UNOSAT said in a statement.

The assessment showed the worst affected areas were the two northern governorates of Gaza and North Gaza, which collectively accounted for 29,732 buildings of the 37,379 damaged or destroyed, or about 80% of the total.

An earlier U.N. assessment released on Nov. 7 said that 25,050 buildings had been damaged or destroyed or about 10% of the total structures in Gaza.

UNOSAT did not estimate damage by type of building. Some figures from Gazan authorities earlier in the conflict indicated widespread damage to housing. One estimate quoted in a U.N. report on Oct. 21 estimated that at least 42% of all housing units had been destroyed or damaged.

– Reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva and Allison Martell in Toronto; Editing by Alex Richardson