Israeli troops have made an advance into Gaza City along a key coastal road on the Mediterranean Sea as part of their ongoing war against Hamas, according to satellite images analyzed by The Associated Press. The images captured by Planet Labs PBC show impact craters from missile strikes and smoke rising over the northern areas of Gaza City. They also depict the previous positions of Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers, which were used to cut the city off from the rest of the Gaza Strip.
After Hamas launched an incursion into southern Israel on October 7th, causing casualties, hundreds of thousands of people have fled Gaza City. In response, Israel initiated a campaign of airstrikes and a military offensive into the Gaza Strip, resulting in the death of over 10,500 people, with two-thirds of the casualties being women and children.
Concerns about the potential misuse and abuse of satellite imagery during the war have led Planet Labs to delay the release of imagery from Israel and the Palestinian territories. However, the company continues to provide data on Gaza to clients, including media and humanitarian organizations. The AP, which has a subscription to access Planet Labs imagery, uses these photos for reporting purposes.
The satellite photos reveal Israeli forces positioned about a kilometer north of the Shati refugee camp, which is located next to Gaza City’s center. Witnesses in Gaza City have confirmed this information, stating that they have seen Israeli soldiers engaged in combat with Hamas close to Shifa Hospital.
Israeli soldiers have approached Gaza City from three positions, traversing the southern edge of the city to the Mediterranean Sea. Meanwhile, forces have also entered from the north and east. According to the Institute for the Study of War, clearing operations like this typically take weeks or even months to complete.
The satellite images show Israeli tanks and armored vehicles moving down a coastal road known as Ahmed Orabi Street. There are also impact craters in the vicinity, likely the result of previous heavy shelling by Israel. Fire and destruction are widespread throughout the city, as seen in the photos.
Since journalists are unable to enter Gaza City, the use of satellite imagery from commercial companies has become crucial for obtaining independent information about the situation on the ground. These images offer detailed insights that were previously only available to a select few countries.
In the past, U.S. law restricted American firms from releasing high-resolution satellite imagery of Israel. However, advancements in commercial satellite technology have made these images more widely available. They have been used in previous reporting on Israel, including in the AP’s coverage of a secretive Israeli nuclear facility undergoing a significant construction project.