Maps show scarce shelter and medical care as the Rafah operation is underway

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Hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled the southern Rafah region over the past week after Israel extended its evacuation orders amid ongoing bombardments and heavy fighting there. Many Gazans, who have been displaced several times, are packing makeshift tents and leaving the area.

The encampments in eastern Rafah have emptied since a May 6 evacuation order

Source: satellite images from Planet Labs

By the New York Times

Many Palestinians have been sent to an area along the coast that the Israelis have designated as a ‘humanitarian zone’. Maps and analyzes of satellite images show that the zone is already overcrowded, often damaged by strikes and lacking sufficient medical facilities.

For months, Israel has threatened a full-scale invasion of Rafah to attack Hamas, despite warnings from humanitarian officials and its own allies about the potential catastrophic toll on civilians. Israel has been carrying out military operations in eastern Rafah since last week, describing them as “limited”, although it has increased pressure in recent days.

Health officials have said dozens of Gazans have been killed by Israeli strikes in Rafah since May 6, and the United Nations said one of its workers had also been killed, the first U.N. international staffer killed since the war began.

The United Nations estimated on Tuesday that about 450,000 people had fled Rafah.

Where people took shelter before military operations started last week

The tents were concentrated in open areas in densely populated Rafah and near the coast. Many other areas in the declared safe zone were heavily damaged.

Source: Planet Labs satellite data; Satellite photo of Copernicus

Note: Tents seen in footage from May 5.

By the New York Times

Before the war, Rafah had fewer than 300,000 people. Following the October 7 Hamas-led attacks, Israel launched an offensive aimed at dismantling the group. The fighting forced more than two million Gazans to flee their homes, with many eventually ending up in Rafah.

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Now, however, Rafah has become a focal point of the Israeli campaign. The army has often struck areas in Rafah, killing people and damaging buildings.

Israel has said Rafah is Hamas’s last stronghold, with several battalions holed up in tunnels beneath the city.

Last week, Israel captured the Gazan side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt after Hamas fired rockets from the area, killing four Israeli soldiers.

Satellite images taken after the May 6 raid show extensive new damage to eastern parts of Rafah. More than 400 structures were destroyed in the evacuation area from May 5 to 7 alone, according to an analysis of satellite images by The New York Times. Humanitarians say these areas are also likely to contain unexploded ordnance from the war.

Hundreds of Rafah buildings have been damaged recently, adding to the devastation

Sources: Damage analysis of Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite data by Corey Scher from the CUNY Graduate Center and Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University; Satellite images from Planet Labs

Note: Satellite-based damage detections from Gaza through May 8 at 12:49 PM in Gaza and Israel. Additional damaged buildings were identified in satellite images collected between May 5 and 7. As of Tuesday, no new high-resolution satellite images of the evacuation area in Rafah were available after May 7.

By the New York Times

The Israeli incursion has had devastating consequences for medical staff and patients, doctors and humanitarian groups say. Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital, in eastern Rafah, is completely closed.

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Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians now rely on only two other major hospitals in Rafah that are still partially functioning, along with a number of smaller clinics and temporary field hospitals. Israel has said it is also operating some field hospitals in what it has designated as a humanitarian zone along the Gaza coast.

Many medical facilities no longer function

Smaller clinics and temporary field hospitals make up the majority of functioning medical centers.

Source: World Health Organization; Press releases from the International Committee of the Red Cross

Note: Data is from May 14. The map does not include field hospitals set up by the Israeli army.

By the New York Times

The seizure of the Rafah crossing and limited access to the Kerem Shalom crossing have also worsened fuel shortages, threatening the collapse of humanitarian operations including hospitals, international aid groups said.

According to UN officials, little or no aid, and only a limited amount of fuel, has arrived in southern Gaza over the past week. Small amounts of aid have entered Gaza at the Erez border crossing in the north, although fighting continues this week in Jabaliya and on the outskirts of Gaza City.

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