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How Israel destroyed Gaza’s ability to feed itself | Israel-Palestine conflict News

How Israel destroyed Gaza’s ability to feed itself | Israel-Palestine conflict News

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At the start of summer, Gaza’s fields are usually bursting with ripening crops and fruits of all colours, scents and sizes.

But, nearly nine months into Israel’s war on Gaza, abundant harvests have given way to devastation and a dire humanitarian crisis.

A UN report says 96 percent of Gaza’s population is food insecure and one in five Palestinians, or about 495,000 people, is facing starvation.

Satellite images analysed by Al Jazeera’s digital investigation team, Sanad show that more than half (60 percent) of Gaza’s farmland, crucial for feeding the war-ravaged territory’s hungry population, has been damaged or destroyed by Israeli attacks.

Israel has killed at least 37,900 people and injured 87,000 others in bombings, by destroying healthcare that could have saved them, and by starvation.

North to south, nowhere and nobody has been spared.

INTERACTIVE Destruction of Gaza's vegetation land-1719404745

North Gaza

In Beit Lahiya, once known for plump, juicy strawberries that locals fondly called “red gold”, Israeli bulldozers and heavy machinery have systematically razed fields, reducing them to dirt.

Before the war, Gaza’s strawberry industry employed thousands of people. Seeding and planting began in September, with harvesting from December through March.

A Palestinian farmer's hands carrying a strawberry box
A Palestinian farmer carries a box of strawberries on a farm in north Gaza [File: Getty Images]

Before and after satellite images show vehicle tracks over the once-fertile regions of Beit Lahiya.

Defying Israel’s ongoing attacks, farmers like Youssef Abu Rabieh figured out ways to grow food between bombed-out buildings – makeshift gardens of repurposed containers.

BEIT LAHIA, GAZA - APRIL 26: Palestinian farmer Youssef Abu Rabieh launches his own agricultural initiative despite the ongoing Israeli attacks in Beit Lahia, Gaza on April 28, 2024. It was reported that 90 percent of agricultural lands and facilities in Gaza were destroyed due to Israeli attacks. (Photo by Mahmoud Issa/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Palestinian farmer Youssef Abu Rabieh launched his agricultural initiative despite ongoing Israeli attacks in Beit Lahiya, on April 28, 2024 [Mahmoud Issa/Anadolu via Getty Images]

Gaza City

Thriving garden patches and back-yard fruit trees once dotted Gaza City, home to about a third (750,000) of Gaza’s 2.3 million population before the war.

South of Gaza City is Zeitoun, a neighbourhood named after the Arabic word for olive. Before and after satellite images show southern Zeitoun where nearly every last bit of greenery has been wiped out.

The olive tree is deeply beloved in Palestine, symbolic of Palestinian resilience against Israeli occupation.

During one short pause in fighting from November 22 to December 1, Palestinian farmers ran to harvest their olives and extract oil, because they do not know any other way to live, and because they needed the harvest.

Olive cultivation is crucial in the Palestinian economy and is used for everything from oil to table olives to soap.

GAZA CITY, GAZA - NOVEMBER 27: Palestinian farmers work to squeeze the olive crops they harvested to obtain olive oil during the last day of the 4 day humanitarian pause in Gaza City, Gaza on November 27, 2023. (Photo by Doaa Albaz/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Palestinian farmers work to press the olive crop for oil during the one-week pause in Gaza City, November 27, 2023 [Doaa Albaz/Anadolu via Getty Images]

Deir el-Balah

Its very name meaning “House of Dates”, the central governorate of Deir el-Balah is one of Gaza’s largest agricultural producers, known for its oranges, olives and – of course – dates.

The date harvest typically begins in late September and continues through the end of October.

Palestinians Date Harvest
Palestinian farm workers collect dates in Deir el-Balah, Gaza, September 30, 2021 [AP Photo/Adel Hana]

The satellite images below show the widespread destruction of farms, roads and homes in eastern Maghazi in the centre of Deir el-Balah.

Khan Younis

Khan Younis in the south used to produce the bulk of Gaza’s citrus, including oranges and grapefruits.

With its fertile soil and long hours of Mediterranean sunshine, it has the ideal climate as well as lots of space, being Gaza’s largest governorate – about 30 percent of the Strip’s 365sq km (141 sq miles).

Palestinian farmers work pick citrus fruits from trees during the citrus harvest season in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 7, 2022. (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Farmers pick citrus fruits in Khan Younis on November 7, 2022 [Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

The satellite images below show how Israeli forces have decimated Khan Younis’s orchards and farmlands.

Rafah

Rafah is Gaza’s southernmost district, with a pre-war population of about 275,000 people.

Rafah is also the name of the crossing with Egypt which used to be a vital link between Gaza and the rest of the world before it was destroyed by Israel in May.

In the southeast of Rafah is the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing where goods grown or produced in Gaza were shipped out of the territory.

Before and after satellite imagery shows how Israeli forces have flattened vital fields in eastern Rafah



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