Resort hotel overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. A multi-storey courthouse built in 2018. Dozens of homes were destroyed in seconds with the push of a trigger.
The damage caused by the Israeli air attack on Gaza has been well documented. But Israeli ground forces have also carried out a wave of controlled bombings that have radically changed the landscape in recent months.
At least 33 controlled demolitions have destroyed hundreds of buildings — including mosques, schools and entire sections of residential neighborhoods — since November, a New York Times analysis of Israeli military footage, social media videos and satellite images shows Industrial.
In response to questions about the demolitions, an IDF spokesman said that soldiers “identify and destroy terrorist infrastructure located, among other things, inside buildings” in civilian areas — adding that sometimes entire neighborhoods serve as “combat compounds” for Hamas. Fighters.
Israeli officials, speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the issue, said Israel wants to demolish Palestinian buildings near the border as part of an effort to create a security “buffer zone” inside Gaza, making it more difficult for the Palestinians. Fighters to carry out cross-border attacks such as the one that occurred in southern Israel on October 7.
But most of the demolition sites identified by The Times occurred outside the so-called buffer zone. The number of confirmed demolitions – based on the availability of visual evidence – may only represent a fraction of the actual number carried out by Israel since the start of the war.
The Israeli army conducted controlled demolitions in Gaza
The demolition site is shown in the video
Areas affected during the war
To carry out these demolitions, soldiers enter targeted buildings to lay mines or other explosives, then leave to pull the trigger from a safe distance. In most cases, Israeli forces cleared and secured the surrounding areas. But in areas of active combat, demolitions are not without risks.
Twenty-one Israeli soldiers were killed last week as their unit prepared to blow up several buildings near the border in central Gaza. Israeli officials said that Palestinian fighters fired a rocket-propelled grenade in their direction, causing the explosive device to explode.
The soldiers were clearing the area to allow residents of southern Israel to safely return to their homes, according to Admiral Daniel Hagari, the IDF's main spokesman.
In December, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that creating a buffer zone along Gaza's roughly 36-mile border with Israel would amount to a “violation” of Washington's long-standing position against reducing territory in Gaza. Humanitarian law experts say the demolitions — which would prevent some Palestinians from eventually returning to their homes — could violate the rules of war that prohibit the intentional destruction of civilian property.
In one video of the demolition in late November, a controlled explosion destroyed at least four high-rise residential buildings just blocks from a large hospital in Gaza City. Another demolition in December destroyed more than a dozen buildings around the city's central Palestine Square, which the Israeli military said was home to a large network of tunnels.
A controlled demolition operation in Palestine Square in Gaza City
At least half of the buildings in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed since the start of the war, according to satellite analysis estimates. While much of the damage is caused by airstrikes and fighting, large, controlled demolitions represent some of the most devastating events.
In the town of Khuza'a, located along the buffer zone east of Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza, videos dating back to early January show soldiers carrying out several bombings, destroying nearly 200 homes. Other videos show soldiers firing flares and applauding as they carry out the demolition.
Controlled demolitions in Khuza'a
One of the largest demolitions identified by The Times was carried out in Shejaiya, a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Gaza City. Over the course of three weeks, dozens of homes were destroyed in the same neighborhood, according to satellite images from December.
A controlled demolition operation in Shujaiya, Gaza City
In some videos, the demolitions appear to target underground infrastructure. Others depict the destruction of mosques, UN schools and university buildings – including the demolition of Al-Isra University in mid-January, which sparked widespread condemnation after the video spread online.
The demolition of Al-Isra University in Gaza City is under control
After American officials raised questions about the decision to demolish the university, the Israeli army said that the incident was “under review.” While Israeli ground forces cleared and secured the site, military officials said it had previously served as a Hamas training camp and weapons manufacturing facility — a claim The Times was unable to verify.
“Previous use of them by enemy fighters is no justification for such destruction,” said Marco Sassoli, a professor of international law at the University of Geneva, who stressed that such demolitions should only take place if they are absolutely necessary for military purposes. Operations. “I cannot imagine how this could be the case for a university, a parliament building, a mosque, a school or a hotel in the middle of the Gaza Strip.”
An Israeli army spokesman said that all actions taken by Israeli forces “are based on military necessity and in accordance with international law.”
For Palestinians, the demolitions are another symbol of loss and destruction in Gaza, raising questions about the future of the Strip after decades of displacement and war.
Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to Britain, said, “Israel’s plan is to destroy Gaza and make it uninhabitable and devoid of life.” “Israel’s goal has always been to make it impossible for our people to return to their land.”
Two days after the killing of 21 Israeli soldiers in central Gaza, another video of the demolition was filmed. In it, a soldier says that in their memory 21 homes will be destroyed.
A controlled demolition operation in Bani Suhaila, Khan Yunis
The soldiers in the video start counting down, and a huge explosion ensues.
Sources and methodology
Satellite images by Planet Labs. Photo of Palestine Square in Gaza City was taken on December 24, 2023. Photo of Khuza'a was taken on January 16, 2024. Photo of Shuja'iyya in Gaza City was taken on December 26, 2023.
Times reporters reviewed and verified dozens of videos from official Israeli military sources, media outlets and social media accounts, including posts by soldiers carrying out demolitions in Gaza. Journalists compared the footage with satellite images and geospatial databases to confirm the date, location, and spatial extent of the demolitions. Some demolition Locations He was It was identified for the first time by Online researchers Then The Times confirmed it.
Reporting was contributed by Eric Toler, Patrick Kingsley and Aaron Boxerman. Meg Feeling contributed to video production.
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