A Satellite View of Israel’s New Front in Gaza

New satellite imagery taken after Israeli forces pushed into Rafah shows widespread damage to the southern Gaza city — including large areas of flattened structures — and clusters of Israeli armored vehicles.

Source: Satellite imagery from Planet Labs

While Israel has described the operation that began earlier this week as limited, imagery captured on Tuesday morning by Planet Labs, a commercial satellite company, shows significant destruction in parts of the city.

A network of damaged buildings reaches more than two miles into the territory near Rafah’s border crossing with Egypt. Israel seized that crossing this week.

Photos and videos released by the Israeli military in the same area show tanks in the vicinity of the crossing at a similar time on Tuesday morning.

While it is not possible to know exactly what caused the damage shown in the satellite imagery, much of what can be seen is consistent with the aftermath of clearing operations and other Israeli ground operations elsewhere in the Gaza Strip.

Source: Satellite imagery from Planet Labs

Israel says Rafah is Hamas’s last stronghold, and a critical gateway for arms shipments smuggled into Gaza from Egypt. It says it is determined to make sure the militants who were behind the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel no longer pose a threat.

But Rafah has also become a refuge for more than a million Palestinians who have fled Israeli bombardment in other parts of Gaza, and there is broad concern that a full-scale invasion might prove catastrophic.

Beyond that, Rafah is also home to one of the two main entry points for the vast majority of aid that has managed to enter Gaza during the war. Since the latest Israeli military operation began, no fuel or aid has made it through, according to Scott Anderson, the deputy director of UNRWA, the main U.N. aid agency in Gaza.

Source: Israeli military announcements

On Monday, the Israeli military ordered about 110,000 people to evacuate parts of Rafah. Thousands left the city, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said, which reported “escalating Israeli airstrikes” in areas east of Rafah.

Local health authorities warned of a “significant increase” in the death toll because of intense Israeli bombardment across Gaza, particularly in Rafah. The bodies of 58 people killed in Israeli strikes had arrived at Rafah’s Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital since Sunday, Dr. Marwan al-Hams, the hospital’s director, said Tuesday.

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