Satellite photos analyzed by AP show an axis of Israel’s advance into the Gaza Strip earlier this week

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Israeli troops have advanced into Gaza City Along a key Mediterranean coastal route as part of its war against Hamas, according to satellite images from earlier this week analyzed by The Associated Press on Thursday.

Images from Planet Labs PBC on Monday show a lunar landscape of impact craters from rocket strikes and smoke rising over the northern reaches of Gaza City, the besieged territory’s largest urban area. The images also show earlier positions of Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers on one of the three attack axes that cut off the city from the rest of the Gaza Strip.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have fled the city after a month of war Hamas’s unprecedented invasion of southern Israel on October 7th Around 1,400 people were killed.

That attack sparked a punitive campaign of airstrikes and the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip, which has so far killed over 10,500 people – two-thirds of them women and children the Ministry of Health in the Hamas-run enclave.

Planet Labs has begun delaying the release of images from Israel and the Palestinian territories amid the war, acknowledging concerns about “the possibility of misuse and misuse” of its images, said Will Marshall, co-founder and CEO of the San-based company Francisco.

“Planet continues to provide Earth observation data from Gaza to customers, including media and humanitarian organizations, consistent with our commitment to transparency and accountability,” Marshall said in answers to questions from the AP before the images were released on Monday. “Planet does not alter images and we have not received any requests to censor images.”

The AP has a subscription to access images from Planet Labs to support its global reporting and distributes these photos to its subscribers and members.

The images from Monday show Israeli forces barely a kilometer north of the Shati refugee camp, a densely populated neighborhood next to the center of Gaza City. Shati houses Palestinian families who fled or were expelled of today’s Israel during the 1948 war that accompanied its founding.

Your position corresponds to what Witnesses in Gaza City told the AP, whose reporters continue to work in the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday, a witness told the AP he saw Israeli soldiers fighting Hamas near Shifa Hospital, about three kilometers (1.9 miles) from the position Israeli forces took on Monday.

Footage released by Hamas this week of Hamas fighters engaging in street battles with Israeli forces matched the characteristics of the northern reaches of the Gaza Strip. The same thing happened in footage released by the Israeli military.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to an AP request for comment on the satellite images.

After Israeli soldiers ordered civilians to withdraw from Gaza City, they advanced on Gaza City from three positions.

They run through the southern edge of the city to the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, two more forces have advanced from the north, including forces around Beit Hanoun in the east and forces seen in satellite images along the Mediterranean in the west, according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.

Such “clearance operations often take weeks and sometimes months,” the institute said.

Satellite photos show more than half a dozen Israeli tanks and armored vehicles moving Monday along Ahmed Orabi Street, a Mediterranean coastal road that is also home to a number of hotels and restaurants. A street mosque can be seen in ruins.

About 20 more vehicles north at a site that could likely serve as an advance base for Israeli forces, the photos show. A few hundred meters (yards) away, more than three dozen impact craters can be seen, likely the result of an earlier intense fire bombardment by Israel to clear the area for its troops.

Burning fires and destroyed buildings can be seen throughout Gaza City.

Since journalists are not allowed outside the city, it remains difficult to gather independent information about what is happening. In addition to videos and images on social media, the growing supply of satellite images from commercial companies has also become increasingly valuable for reporting on closed areas and countries.

These companies can capture highly detailed images that rival those previously reserved for only a few countries. Airbus and Colorado-based Maxar Technologies also provided images to reporters during the Israel-Hamas war. Both companies did not respond to a request for comment.

Previously, a 1996 U.S. law known as the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment banned American companies from releasing high-resolution satellite images of Israel beyond what was commercially available abroad. But as commercial companies launched higher-resolution satellites into space, these images became more widely available.

These newly available images have already been used in reporting on Israel. This was reported by the AP in 2021, which was based on such images a secret Israeli nuclear facility At the center of the country’s undeclared nuclear weapons program was apparently the largest construction project in decades. This work seems to continue to this day.

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