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Gaza Strip in Maps: What it’s Like for the People who Live There

Home to 2.2 million people, the Gaza Strip is a densely-populated enclave, 41km (25 miles) long and 10km wide, bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on one side and fenced off from Israel and Egypt at its borders.

In response to Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October, Israel has begun a “complete siege” of Gaza, with the Israeli defence minister declaring: “There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel”.

The move immediately worsened the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, where 80% of the population was already in need of international aid.

Gaza has been under the control of the militant Islamist group Hamas since 2007, following a violent conflict with the then governing Palestinian Authority.

Previously occupied by Egypt, Gaza was captured by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war. Israel withdrew its troops and about 7,000 settlers in 2005, but even before the current blockade it restricted the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza.

Evacuation order

As part of its response to the Hamas attack, Israel has told civilians to evacuate the area of Gaza north of the Wadi Gaza riverbed, ahead of an expected invasion by the Israeli military.

The evacuation area includes Gaza City – the most densely populated area of the Gaza Strip.

The Erez border crossing into Israel is closed, so those living in the evacuation zone are unable to leave Gaza and have no choice but to head towards the southern districts.

Map of the evacuation area

Map of Gaza showing the zone in the north which Israeli authorities have ordered civilians to evacuate by moving south of the Wadi Gaza.

With 2.2 million people in a relatively small strip of land, Gaza has one of the highest population densities in the world.

The largest urban area in the south is Khan Younis, but with a population half the size of Gaza City’s it will struggle to cope with a million Palestinians fleeing the north.

On average, there are more than 5,700 people per sq km in Gaza – very similar to the average density in London – but that figure was more than 9,000 in Gaza City, the most heavily populated area.

Gaza City was densely populated

Graphic showing the population density of Gaza before the evacuation of a million people from the north. Gaza City is clearly shown to be most densely populated urban area.

According to the United Nations, following the evacuation order the number of displaced people has risen rapidly and there are now one million who have fled their homes.

Half of Gaza on the move

Graphics showing that a million people in Gaza have had to leave their homes since 7 October 2023 out of a total population of 2.2 million.

Buildings and infrastructure destroyed

Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza in response to the Hamas attacks of 7 October have caused extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure.

The map below shows areas which have been affected using analysis of satellite data by Corey Scher of CUNY Graduate Center and Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University.

More than 5,000 structures in North Gaza alone have been either destroyed or damaged some way – about 15% of all buildings in the region – according to preliminary reports by Unosat, which also provides satellite analysis during humanitarian disasters.

Map showing where buildings have been destroyed or damaged since the start of the conflict - with red areas for damage clearly visible in Beit Hanoun near the northeastern border, around Gaza City and also in the south where Israel had ordered Palestinians to move to for their own safety

The neighbourhood of Beit Hanoun, near the north-eastern border with Israel, has suffered significant damage since the start of the conflict, with dozens of buildings hit, including a school compound.

Beit Hanoun’s residents were among the first to be issued warnings by Israel to leave their homes. Israeli aircraft subsequently delivered waves of airstrikes on the area – which IDF described as a hub for Hamas and “from which many operations against Israel were launched”.

Satellite analysis also shows destruction of residential areas, school buildings and mosques in Beit Lahiya, Jabalia and areas of Gaza City – one of the most densely populated places in the world.

Unosat said it had also identified dozens of agricultural greenhouses that had been damaged or destroyed and fields peppered with visible impact craters. More than 270 road sections also look like they have been affected by craters or debris.

Israel ordered Palestinians to evacuate northern Gaza and move south of the area known as Wadi Gaza. But the satellite analysis shows strikes have also destroyed buildings there, with damage in Khan Younis, Rafah and rural areas near the south-eastern border.

Overcrowded homes

The repeated conflicts between Palestinian militants and Israel have left many people in Gaza without adequate housing.

Extended families live in overcrowded, low-quality, insecure buildings, with the Norwegian Refugee Council estimating that more than 120,000 are living in homes that have no windows, safe roofs or doors.

A family gathers around a fire to warm up at a house in Gaza City in January 2020.

Palestinian officials say the current Israeli air strikes have destroyed around a thousand homes – adding to 2,200 yet to be rebuilt from previous conflicts since 2014.

Another 72,000 which were damaged but not destroyed had not received any financial help with repairs.

The loss of those homes compounds the ongoing shortage of housing in Gaza. The Global Shelter Cluster estimates that 120,000 units need to be built in Gaza to provide everyone with shelter.

Refugee camps

Just over 75% of Gaza’s population – some 1.7 million people – were already registered refugees before the evacuation order, according to the UN.

Palestinian refugees are defined by the UN as people whose “place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 War”. The children of Palestinian refugees are also able to apply for refugee status.

More than 500,000 of those refugees were already in eight crowded camps located across the Strip.

As two of those camps, Jabalia and Shati, are in the evacuation zone, this has put the other six under increased pressure and many people are being forced to sleep outdoors.

Map of Gaza, showing urban areas and the refugee camps of Jabalia, Shati, Nuseirat, Bureij, Maghazi, Deir al-Balah, Khan Younis and Rafah
Family pictured outside very basic-looking stone shelter
Image caption,Many families live in Gaza’s eight refugee camps

Electricity blackouts

Satellite image taken at night showing how there are no lights seen in Gaza as a result of the power cuts.

Gaza is without electricity with its sole power plant closed and supplies from Israel suspended.

The Gaza Power Plant, in Deir al-Balah just south of the evacuation area, shut down on 11 October after running out of fuel.

Map showing the location of the only electrical power station in Gaza.

Even before the current conflict power cuts were an everyday occurrence in Gaza, with households receiving electricity for only 13 hours per day on average, according to the UN.

Hospitals in crisis

Major institutions, like hospitals, have back-up generators but the blockade means no fuel to run them once existing supplies run out.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says without electricity hospitals in Gaza “risk turning into morgues.”

Israel was immediately blamed by the Hamas-controlled Palestinian authorities after an explosion at the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City on 17 October that is feared to have killed hundreds of people. Israel has denied being involved.

Map of Gaza showing the location of the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in the evacuation zone

However, many medical facilities are in the evacuation zone in the north and have been damaged by Israeli airstrikes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says there have been more than one hundred attacks on healthcare facilities and the majority of hospitals in Gaza are not functioning.

Public health facilities in Gaza were already overstretched with shortages of medical supplies and equipment and many specialist treatments were not available.

Palestinian women undergo kidney dialysis at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, April 2017
Image caption,Electricity and fuel shortages have disrupted the functioning of medical facilities

Patients from Gaza needing life-saving or advanced care in West Bank or East Jerusalem hospitals needed approval by the Palestinian Authority and then exit passes from the Israeli authorities.

From 2008 to 2022, more than 70,000 or a third of patient permit applications were delayed or denied. Some patients also died while awaiting a response to their application.

Water running low

The tap water in Gaza is salty and polluted and was already considered unfit for drinking – Israel has now cut off much of its supply of clean water.

The WHO sets the minimum requirement for daily water needs at 100 litres per person – to cover drinking, washing, cooking and bathing. Before the conflict, the average consumption in Gaza was about 84 litres, with only 27 litres of that considered suitable for human use.

Currently, the WHO estimates the average water consumption in Gaza is just three litres per person.

A graphic showing the extremity of water shortage in Gaza compared with minimum requirements

There are increasing concerns over dehydration and waterborne diseases with the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA warning that “people will start dying without water”.

Only one of the three water mains into Gaza is thought to be open – providing limited drinking water to Khan Younis in the south.

Local water pumps and sewage systems need fuel to function. As a result, wastewater treatment plants have stopped working, leading to tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage being pumped daily into the sea.

Meanwhile, at least six water wells, three water pumping stations, one reservoir, and one desalination plant, have been all been damaged by airstrikes, cutting the supply to more than half a million people.

Border closures

Civilians have little hope of being able to leave Gaza to escape the conflict.

Before the attack by Hamas, there were only two crossings allowing travel into and out of Gaza – with most former border points having been closed for years.

Map of Gaza showing the current and former border crossing points into Israel and Egypt.

Palestinians are banned from leaving Gaza via Israel unless they obtain an Israeli-issued exit permit. The permits were limited to day labourers, businesspeople, medical patients and their companions, and aid workers.

The entire 60km-long border with Israel is guarded by a perimeter fence with “no-go” areas extending up to 100m (330ft) from the fence itself and only farm workers are allowed within 300m.

Graphic showing Israel's perimeter fence with Gaza and restricted areas

Those wanting to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing into Egypt had to register with the Palestinian authorities several weeks in advance and apply to Egypt, which imposes limits on numbers and severe security controls.

Now Israel has indefinitely shut the Erez crossing, while the Egyptian-controlled Rafah border crossing in the south has been closed due to Israeli airstrikes near the gate on the Palestinian side.

The latter had prevented humanitarian aid, including food, water and medicines, crossing from Egypt into Gaza. On Saturday, the border opened for the first time since the conflict began. Israel has agreed to allow around 20 trucks carrying food, water and medicine – but no fuel – into Gaza.

To try to get round the blockade, Hamas has built a network of tunnels which it uses to bring goods into the Strip from Egypt and also as an underground command centre.

Israel says the tunnels are also used by militants to smuggle weapons and move around out of sight. It frequently targets them with airstrikes.

Palestinian man is lowered into a smuggling tunnel beneath the Gaza-Egypt border 4 June 2010
Image caption,Tunnels were dug under the Egyptian border to bring in all kinds of goods and weapons
Map of Gaza showing the underground tunnel system built by Hamas, according to the Israeli military.

Young population

Gaza has one of the world’s youngest populations, with almost 60% of the population under 25 years old, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

That compares with just over 20% in London, where according to data from the 2021 census, more than 65% of people are aged between 25 and 64.

More than 80% of the population lives in poverty in Gaza, where unemployment levels are among the highest in the world, reaching 45% in 2022.

A chart showing the population of Gaza by age group. Gaza has a young population with almost 60% of the population under the age of 25

Source : BBC