Gaza Strip in maps: How life has changed in three months

Boy sits amid rubble of destroyed homes in Gaza

Almost two million people in Gaza – more than 85% of the population – are reported to have fled their homes in the three months since Israel began its military operation in response to Hamas’s deadly attacks of 7 October.

The Strip has been under the control of Hamas since 2007 and Israel says it is trying to destroy the military and governing capabilities of the Islamist group, which is committed to the destruction of Israel.

Gaza – a densely populated enclave 41km (25 miles) long and 10km wide, bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on one side and fenced off from Israel and Egypt at its borders – has “simply become uninhabitable”, according to a senior United Nations official.

Map showing Gaza urban areas and refugee camps with the high-risk and no-go areas of the Israeli declared buffer zone around its border. Gaza has three border crossing points - Erez into Israel in the north and Rafah and Kerem Shalom into Egypt in the south - although they are not always open

Israel warned civilians to evacuate the area of Gaza north of the Wadi Gaza riverbed, ahead of its invasion.

The evacuation area included Gaza City – which was the most densely populated area of the Gaza Strip. The Erez border crossing into Israel in the north is closed, so those living in the evacuation zone had no choice but to head towards the southern districts.

Families leave north Gaza after warnings from Israeli military

Southern Gaza evacuation areas

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are now focusing operations on southern Gaza. The main urban areas in the south – Khan Younis and Rafah – have been bombed and Israeli troops have clashed with Hamas fighters on the ground. Palestinians, including those who have fled fighting in the north, had been told to move to a so-called “safe area” at al-Mawasi, a thin strip of mainly agricultural land along the Mediterranean coast, close to the Egyptian border. But the Israeli military has said it is now also preparing to operate in parts of al-Mawasi and residents should move to Deir al Balah.

Fighting in Khan Younis and Deir al Balah has already pushed tens of thousands of people to flee to the southern district of Rafah, the UN said, where more than one million people “are squeezed into an extremely overcrowded space”.

Map showing area of south eastern Gaza told to evacuate and Israeli ground operations in and around Khan Younis

According to the UN, just over 75% of Gaza’s population – some 1.7 million people – were already registered refugees before Israel warned Palestinians to leave northern Gaza.

Palestinian refugees are defined by the UN as people whose “place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 War”. The children of Palestinian refugees are also able to apply for refugee status.

Most of Gaza’s population displaced

Graphic showing that 1.9 million people in Gaza have had to leave their homes since 7 October 2023 out of a total population of 2.2 million.

More than 500,000 of those refugees were already in eight crowded camps located across the Strip.

Following Israel’s warnings, the number of displaced people has risen rapidly and 1.9 million have fled their homes since 7 October, the UN says.

On average, before the conflict, there were more than 5,700 people per sq km in Gaza – very similar to the average density in London – but that figure was more than 9,000 in Gaza City, the most heavily populated area.

Graphic showing the population density of Gaza before the evacuation of a million people from the north. Gaza City is clearly shown to be most densely populated urban area.

As Gazans have fled south, the population density is now more than 12,000 people per square kilometre in Rafah, the UN says.

The UN warns that overcrowding has become a major concern in its emergency shelters in central and southern Gaza, with some far exceeding their capacity..

“Overcrowded and unsanitary UNRWA shelters have now become “home” to more than 1.4 million people,” said UNRWA commissioner Philippe Lazzarini. “They lack everything, from food to hygiene to privacy. People live in inhumane conditions, where diseases are spreading, including among children. They live through the unliveable, with the clock ticking fast towards famine.”

Many of these emergency shelters are schools and in some there are dozens of people living in a single classroom. Other families are living in tents or makeshift shelters in compounds or on waste ground in open spaces.

Food being distributed at shelter in Deir El-Balah, in central Gaza

Israel has already launched hundreds of airstrikes across Gaza and says it has used more than 10,000 bombs and missiles, causing extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure.

Gazan officials say more than 50% of housing units in Gaza have been destroyed, left uninhabitable or damaged since the start of the conflict. They say more than 500,000 people will have no homes to return to, and many more will be not be able to return immediately after the conflict because of damage to surrounding infrastructure.

The map below – using analysis of satellite data by Corey Scher of CUNY Graduate Center and Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University – shows which urban areas have sustained concentrated damage since the start of the conflict.

They say at least 138,000 buildings across the whole Gaza Strip have suffered damage. North Gaza and Gaza City have borne the brunt of this, with at least 70% of buildings in the two northern regions believed to have been damaged, but their analysis now suggests up to 56% of buildings in Khan Younis have also been damaged.

Map showing damage to buildings in Gaza

Map showing where buildings have been destroyed or damaged since the start of the conflict up to 9 January - with red areas for damage clearly visible across Gaza. Israel has told Palestinians to move out of areas in the north and around Khan Younis for their own safety.

Many healthcare facilities have been left unable to function as a result of bomb damage or lack of fuel.

The UN says hospital capacity in the enclave has more than halved from 3,500 beds before 7 October to about 1,000 now – and “hardly any” in the north.

Tent city - temporary shelters in Rafah

More than 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals were killed during the Hamas attacks on 7 October. More than 23,000 Palestinians – including about 8,000 children – have been killed in Israeli airstrikes and operations since then, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

It is difficult for the BBC to verify exact numbers, but the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) has said it has no reason to believe the figures are inaccurate.

The airstrikes were accompanied by a “complete siege” of Gaza by Israel, with electricity, food and fuel supplies cut, followed by military action on the ground.

The IDF began its ground operations by moving into Gaza from the north-west along the coast and into the north east near Beit Hanoun. A few days later Israeli forces cut across the middle of the territory to the south of Gaza City.

Armoured bulldozers created routes for tanks and troops, as the Israeli forces tried to clear the area of Hamas fighters based in northern Gaza.

Having cut Gaza in two, the Israelis pushed further into Gaza City, where they faced resistance from Hamas. While there are still clashes in some areas, analysts from the Institute for the Study of War say Israeli forces have started to secure parts of northern Gaza.

How Israeli forces moved into northern Gaza

Four maps showing how Israeli tanks and troops entered Gaza from north on 27 October and from further south in following days until they had cut Gaza City off from the south of Gaza and the coast.

The image below, released by the IDF, shows tanks and armoured bulldozers on the beach near Gaza City.

A photo of the same beach from last summer shows people making the most of a hot day in Gaza, families splashing in the sea or sitting on fanning out along the beach.

Image released by the Israeli Defense Forces shows tanks and armoured bulldozers on the beach near Gaza City. A photo from last summer shows people making the most of the beach during a hot day in Gaza, with food stands, parasols and children splashing in the sea.

Even before the current conflict, about 80% of the population of Gaza was in need of humanitarian aid, and although Israel has been allowing some aid in from Egypt, aid agencies said it was nowhere near enough.

The World Food Programme says half of Gaza’s population is starving and 90% of the population regularly go without food for a whole day.

A seven-day ceasefire at the end of November allowed agencies to deliver an average of 170 trucks and 110,000 litres of fuel a day, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says.

Aid trucks are still crossing into Gaza, but the WHO has warned that delivering that aid “continues to face near insurmountable challenges” as the area endures intense bombardment, movement restrictions, interrupted communications and fuel shortages.

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