Journal Article

‘Nowhere and no one is safe’: spatial analysis of damage to critical civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip during the first phase of the Israeli military campaign, 7 October to 22 November 2023

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Background Since the Hamas attacks in Israel on 7 October 2023, the Israeli military has launched an assault in the Gaza Strip, which included over 12,000 targets struck and over 25,000 tons of incendiary munitions used by 2 November 2023. The objectives of this study include: (1) the descriptive and inferential spatial analysis of damage to critical civilian infrastructure (health, education, and water facilities) across the Gaza Strip during the first phase of the military campaign, defined as 7 October to 22 November 2023 and (2) the analysis of damage clustering around critical civilian infrastructure to explore broader questions about Israel’s adherence to International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Methods We applied multi-temporal coherent change detection on Copernicus Sentinel 1-A Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery to detect signals indicative of damage to the built environment through 22 November 2023. Specific locations of health, education, and water facilities were delineated using open-source building footprint and cross-checked with geocoded data from OCHA, OpenStreetMap, and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. We then assessed the retrieval of damage at and with close proximity to sites of health, education, and water infrastructure in addition to designated evacuation corridors and civilian protection zones. The Global Moran’s I autocorrelation inference statistic was used to determine whether health, education, and water facility infrastructure damage was
spatially random or clustered.

Results During the period under investigation, in the entire Gaza Strip, 60.8% (n = 59) of health, 68.2% (n = 324) of
education, and 42.1% (n = 64) of water facilities sustained infrastructure damage. Furthermore, 35.1% (n = 34) of health,
40.2% (n = 191) of education, and 36.8% (n = 56) of water facilities were functionally destroyed. Applying the Global
Moran’s I spatial inference statistic to facilities demonstrated a high degree of damage clustering for all three types of
critical civilian infrastructure, with Z-scores indicating < 1% likelihood of cluster damage occurring by random chance.
Conclusion Spatial statistical analysis suggests widespread damage to critical civilian infrastructure that should have
been provided protection under IHL. These findings raise serious allegations about the violation of IHL, especially in
light of Israeli officials’ statements explicitly inciting violence and displacement and multiple widely reported acts of
collective punishment.

Date Published
Conflict and Health
Journal Name
Conflict and Health
Gaza Strip
Israel-Hamas war
Civilian infrastructure
International Humanitarian Law
Spatial analysis