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Israel-Hamas war in numbers: Scale of destruction in Gaza is unprecedented

It is difficult to find a recent conflict that has led to as many deaths or buildings destroyed in such a short period of time. These data and graphs help put the figures in context

Thirty days have passed since Hamas militants launched a surprise attack in Israeli territory. The offensive met with little resistance, with Hamas killing hundreds of civilians in the deadliest attack suffered by Israel in a single day. The afternoon of that same day, Israel began an unprecedented series of attacks against the Gaza Strip and its population.

Here is a review of the number of bombings, adult and children fatalities, and destroyed buildings one month on since Israel launched its offensive, which is on a scale that is difficult to compare with other recent clashes.

Air strikes

In the first 30 days of the war between Israel and Hamas, Israeli forces claim to have launched 11,000 airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, a territory of just 140.9 square miles. The first 6,000 strikes took place in one week (between October 7 and 13). Although Israeli forces have not clarified whether each attack includes multiple missiles, rockets and bombardments, this is the most likely scenario.

Is 11,000 airstrikes a lot? For comparison’s sake, that figure is nine times more than the number of Russian airstrikes in Ukraine in the first month of the invasion. And 18 times more than the monthly average number of U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan in 2019, one of the years with the highest number of U.S. offensives.

On the other hand, Hamas said it launched 7,000 airstrikes on Israel on October 7, while Israeli authorities put the number at 3,000. The vast majority were repelled by Israel’s anti-missile shield.

The scale of the Israeli offensive in Gaza is the biggest seen in the Middle East since Syria in 2019. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) has documented at least 761 bombing operations in Gaza and the West Bank since October 7. This figure, which is partial since it only includes bombings accredited after a long verification process, is one of the highest recorded in a single month in the area since data has been recorded. The only conflict that comes close to these figures is the U.S. bombings in Syria in 2017 (1,257 air offensives in the month of April alone) and in May 2019 (1,119 bombings).

Casualties

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which shook Western public opinion and created a united front of countries against the Kremlin, has killed 9,806 people since it began 18 months ago, according to data from mid-October.

In Gaza, according to Ministry of Health figures which are also used by the United Nations, more than 10,000 people have died in just a month. The quickly rising death toll is incomparable to any other conflict in Eastern Europe. It is worth pointing out that while it is possible to leave Ukraine — in the first week alone, about a million people left the country — in Gaza, residents cannot flee the territory.

In Israel, 1,400 civilian victims have been killed so far, the highest number recorded since the United Nations began collecting data on the conflict in the area. The deaths were all recorded in the first week of the war: local authorities have not updated the figure since October 15.

Although countries such as the United States questioned the reliability of the death toll figures in the Gaza Strip, they are used and recognized by all international organizations. “The numbers from the Gaza Ministry of Health are generally reliable,” Omar Shakir, director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) for Israel and Palestine, told EL PAÍS. “We have done our own verification in specific attacks and we have found that the number generally coincides with what the ministry gives,” Shakir added. In fact, it is data that the United Nations and the U.S. Department of State also use in their annual report.

Children

The high number of deaths in Gaza is explained, in part, by the fact that nearly five million people live in just 140.9 square miles. This means that the population concentration in Gaza is nine times that of Spain, and 11 times that of Ukraine.

The number of children who have been killed in the Israeli bombings is also unprecedented. In Gaza, almost one in two inhabitants is under 18 years old.

It is sadly logical that, in the face of indiscriminate bombing in such a small territory, almost every second casualty is a child. In Ukraine, 531 children have died as of October, 7% of all casualties.

Destroyed buildings

According to United Nations data, in the Gaza Strip, more than 40,000 buildings have been destroyed or are uninhabitable, while another 220,000 have been damaged. In other words, about 45% of Gaza’s residential buildings have been affected by the bombs.

In the first four months of the invasion of Ukraine — a country which is 1,000 times bigger than Gaza —, the World Bank estimated that around 817,000 residential buildings had been damaged, or 4% of all those in the country. In one of the hardest hit areas, the eastern Donetsk region, nearly 30% of homes were severely damaged.

The long siege of the city of Mariupol came to symbolize the devastating impact of the war. For almost three months, the Russian army surrounded the city until it took control. A United Nations analysis based on satellite photos estimated that 32% of all buildings in this city had been damaged. For Gaza City, there are still no official estimates, but satellite images allow us to see the extent of the destruction in neighborhoods, residential areas and refugee camps.

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