Israeli troops have advanced into Gaza City along a coastal road on the Mediterranean Sea in their ongoing conflict with Hamas, according to satellite images analyzed by The Associated Press. The images from earlier this week show impact craters from missile strikes and smoke rising over Gaza City. They also reveal the positions of Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers used to isolate the city from the rest of the Gaza Strip.
Gaza City has experienced a significant number of residents fleeing the area over the past month due to the conflict. Since Hamas initiated an incursion into southern Israel on October 7, there have been approximately 1,400 recorded deaths. In response, Israel has launched a campaign of airstrikes and an offensive into the Gaza Strip, resulting in over 10,500 casualties, with two-thirds of them being women and children.
Planet Labs, the provider of the satellite imagery, has decided to delay releasing images from the Israeli and Palestinian territories due to concerns about potential misuse. The company, however, continues to provide the data to clients, including media and humanitarian organizations. They have not received any requests to censor the imagery.
The released images show Israeli forces located approximately a kilometer north of the Shati refugee camp, close to Gaza City’s center. Witnesses in Gaza have confirmed these positions, with reports of Israeli soldiers engaged in fighting with Hamas near Shifa Hospital, which is about 3 kilometers away. Both Hamas and the Israeli military have released footage of the conflict that aligns with the captured satellite images.
Civilians were ordered to leave Gaza City before Israeli soldiers began their advance from three positions. Forces approached the city from the south, cutting across its southern edge to reach the Mediterranean Sea. Additional forces moved in from the north, with troops in Beit Hanoun on the east side and troops observed along the Mediterranean coast in the satellite images obtained.
The satellite photos reveal Israeli tanks and armored vehicles moving along Ahmed Orabi Street, a coastal road that features hotels and restaurants. There is evidence of a forward-operating base for Israeli forces nearby. Impact craters and destroyed buildings indicate the intensity of the conflict within Gaza City.
With restricted access to journalists, the use of satellite imagery becomes crucial in gathering independent information about the situation. Companies like Planet Labs, Airbus, and Maxar Technologies have provided valuable images for reporting on closed-off areas and conflicts. These high-resolution images were previously restricted, but with advancements in commercial satellite technology, they have become more widely available.
In the past, such imagery has been used to report on Israel, including the revelation of a secretive nuclear facility undergoing significant construction. This construction project, first reported in 2021, is still ongoing.