• Reuters

Drones Show How Israeli Bombs Turned Gaza into Moonscape

REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Palestinians walk among the rubble, as they inspect houses destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid the temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, at Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip November 27, 2023.

Drone footage shot by Reuters over Gaza before and after the start of Israel’s assault on the Palestinian enclave show a busy urban area, with children playing and people going about their chores – then an eerie moonscape of crumpled buildings and mounds of rubble stretching for block after block.

The pictures filmed before Oct. 7 show schools, mosques and churches, and the 14th century Barquq Islamic fortress.

People are walking in the streets or driving along a tree-lined boulevard. One scene shows children going to school on a donkey cart. Another shows people having fun at a water park.

Gaza, which lies along the Mediterranean coast, has long been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade that has restricted Palestinians’ movement.

Ruled by the Hamas Islamist movement, it is one of the most densely populated places on earth and has suffered years of economic deprivation. Yet life went on.

Some of the footage showed the Beach refugee camp, an area of squat, tightly packed cinder block houses, with washing hanging outside. It is home to the families and descendants of refugees from the 1948 war around the creation of the state of Israel.

In another refugee camp, Nusseirat, children enjoy break-dancing in the street.

Drone footage of Nusseirat filmed after the start of the Israeli bombardments shows widespread destruction, with smoking craters and flattened buildings.

Israel attacked Gaza in retaliation for a raid by Hamas militants on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which they killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, including children. About 240 people were taken back to Gaza as hostages.

Weeks of Israeli bombing from land, sea and air and a ground invasion in north Gaza have killed nearly 15,000 people in the enclave and created a humanitarian crisis as people fled their homes to find shelter elsewhere in the crammed enclave.

Hospitals struggle to cope with the dead and wounded, and supplies of food, water and fuel are running out.

The drone footage filmed after Oct. 7 shows street after street of destroyed buildings. Smoke rises from piles of rubble. Large residential apartment blocks tilt precariously to one side or have just folded in on themselves.

People can be seen wandering among the ruins or picking through rubble but there appears to be very little normal activity. Few cars are on the street.

Several shots showed people filing past wrecked buildings, apparently evacuating their home areas to find refuge elsewhere.

Footage shot after a brief truce started last Friday shows more people venturing out onto the streets. But from Khan Younis in the south to central Zahra City and Gaza City in the north, there are just piles of debris, bricks and concrete dust where homes used to be.