Where new tent cities are rising in Central Gaza

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A growing area in central Gaza is filling with tents, satellite images show, as Palestinians who fled south to Rafah to escape the danger have packed up their belongings and left again in search of safety.

Source: satellite images from Planet Labs. The April images were captured between April 3 and April 20. The May images were taken between May 18 and May 30.

Most Gazans in Rafah began leaving in early May after the Israeli army, preparing for its ground operation in the south, issued evacuation orders for the eastern part of the city.

But a new exodus began toward the end of the month after an Israeli attack killed dozens of people in a displaced persons camp, according to local authorities. Israel said the attack targeted a Hamas complex. An attack on the nearby Al-Mawasi area two days later killed another 21 people hiding there, Gazan officials said. Israel has insisted it has not attacked areas it has designated as “humanitarian zones” where evacuating Gaza residents are to go.

In total, according to figures, more than a million Gazans – almost half of the territory’s total population – have now fled Rafah to the United Nations. Many have been repeatedly displaced.

When the Israeli army issued its evacuation orders for Rafah in early May, it instructed Palestinians to move to a “humanitarian zone” it had designated along the Gaza coast. The zone extends from the south of Khan Younis to Deir al Balah in the north.

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Some people sheltering in western Rafah also began packing, even though the area was not mentioned in the evacuation order. Satellite images captured late last month showed few tents there.

Before evacuation orders were issued for eastern Rafah

After evacuation orders, but before May 26 strike in western Rafah

After a strike in western Rafah

Source: satellite images from Planet Labs

As Rafah emptied, Palestinians fled to coastal areas in Khan Younis and Deir al Balah governorates, an area roughly aligned with the humanitarian zone declared by the Israeli army.

The pace of resettlement accelerated in the aftermath of the deadly strike that killed dozens of people in the IDP camp.

Before evacuation orders were issued for eastern Rafah

After evacuation orders, but before May 26 strike in western Rafah

After a strike in western Rafah

Source: satellite images from Planet Labs

Even before Israel began its ground operation in Rafah, many Palestinians had sought shelter in central Gaza, near Deir al Balah. But part of the coastline remained largely empty.

Now tents and temporary shelters fill nearly twelve continuous kilometers of coastline, stretching from near Wadi Gaza in the north to the border with Egypt in the south. Because space is at a premium, some people are forced to pitch their tents just meters away from the waves.

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Source: satellite images from Planet Labs

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