How conflicts, blockades and history have shaped the geography of Gaza

Children are also frequently injured in attacks, as they represent an unusually high percentage of the population.

As a new wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians heads into all-out war, the death toll is increasingly out of balance.

On the Palestinian side, health officials say more than 180 people in the Gaza Strip, including children, have been killed in Israeli military operations, including airstrikes and bombings. Israel has so far counted less than a dozen dead in rocket attacks from Gaza.

Israel’s sophisticated missile defense system and far greater firepower play a major role in explaining the imbalance – as does the unusual geography of the Gaza Strip.

Gaza City is more densely populated than Tel Aviv and other major cities in the world like London and Shanghai, and much more than the regions of Israel that surround it. This means that even targeted airstrikes in Gaza have a high probability of hitting civilians.

Children are also frequently injured in attacks, as they represent an unusually high percentage of the population: Unicef ​​estimates that around 1 million children live in the Gaza Strip, which means that a few less than half of Gaza’s 2.1 million people are children.

The burden of such conflicts “rests fiercely on the shoulders of civilians, and primarily women and children,” said Dmytro Chupryna, deputy director of Airwars, an organization that monitors civilian casualties. “Most of the civilian casualties we see happen when civilians are hiding in the basement because there is nowhere to run away.”

The Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip are much less dense. Farmland dot the landscape, contrasting against the crowded skyline of high-rise buildings along much of the Gaza Strip.

About 1.4 million of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are Palestinian refugees, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency – well over half of the population.

Refugee camps sprang up in the territory as Palestinians fled the violence of the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, and continued to expand as more Palestinians were displaced as a result of the second. conflict in 1967.

A high birth rate and the arrival of new refugees from war-torn countries like Syria in recent years has meant that the population has continued to grow – and the United Nations expects it to double over the course of the next 30 years.

About twice the size of the District of Columbia, the impoverished Palestinian territory is surrounded by Israel on almost all sides. It also shares a small land border with Egypt.

Living conditions in Gaza are grim: 95% of the population does not have access to safe drinking water, according to UNRWA, and power cuts periodically interrupt life.

The territory has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, according to World Bank statistics, and the United Nations estimates that around 80% of the population depends on international aid to survive and access health services. based.

In an area as dense as Gaza, Chupryna said, the airstrikes are likely to have side effects, hitting already weak infrastructure and leaving civilians without electricity and water.

Israel restricts movement outside the Gaza Strip and also maintains an air, land and sea blockade that it says is necessary to prevent Hamas from obtaining supplies that could be used for terrorism.

But the blockade also narrowly limits Palestinians’ access to basic supplies and basic food, and the UN estimates it has cost the territory’s economy up to $ 16.7 billion over 11 years. .


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