Before and after images show displacement in Gaza after hundreds of thousands flee Rafah

Palestinian families in Gaza have been forced to move to several locations in the past seven months

Satellite images from Maxar Technologies shows tents and shelters west of Khan Younis on May 4 and a major expansion of tents and shelters on May 15. AFP
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Satellite images have shown the scale of displacement in Gaza since the Israeli army issued orders to forcibly displace them from the city of Rafah, west of Khan Younis, on May 6.

Pictures from Maxar Technologies show a huge increase in the number of tents and shelters west of Khan Younis on May 15, when compared with images of the same area less than two weeks before, on May 4.

Palestinian families in Gaza have been forced to head to different locations numerous times in the past seven months after receiving warnings from the Israeli military.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the enclave are now living in tents in the so-called "safe zone" of Al Mawasi, which is barely equipped with basic services.

Most of Gaza’s population of more than 2.3 million people have been displaced since fighting began on October 7.

Israeli officials say the "evacuations" are aimed at sparing civilian lives as soldiers fight against Hamas fighters.

But many in Gaza say they have nowhere to go, with entire neighbourhoods destroyed.

The fear now is that if Palestinians leave Gaza altogether, they will never be allowed to return.

Their situation will be like those who were forced to leave in the 1948 Nakba, which means "catastrophe".

In the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the UN said that 600,000 people have been displaced since Israel intensified military operations in the south Gaza city earlier this month.

UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said on Thursday that "600,000 people have fled Rafah since military operations intensified".

At the same time, another 100,000 people have fled their homes amid renewed fighting in northern Gaza, the UN agency said on Tuesday, meaning that about a quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced again in just over a week.

Israel issued an initial evacuation order for eastern Rafah on May 6, and it has repeatedly expanded the areas ordered to be emptied of civilians since then as it prepares for a widely feared ground assault.

The UN has warned of an "epic" disaster if Israel conducts an outright invasion of the city where 1.4 million people – many displaced from elsewhere in war-torn Gaza – had been sheltering.

The war began with a Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, in which Hamas-led militants killed about 1,200 people and took about 250 hostage.

Gaza’s health authorities said more than 35,200 Palestinians have been killed in the war.

Updated: May 16, 2024, 1:19 PM