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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Israel Has Inflicted 'Unprecedented' Damage on Gaza's Infrastructure

The damage to Gaza as of the end of January amounted to 97% of the 2022 gross domestic product of both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, a World Bank and U.N. report found.

Gaza screenshot via video on X

By Olivia Rosane, Common Dreams

Israel's devastating bombardment and invasion of Gaza has "inflicted" around $18.5 billion worth of damage to essential infrastructure including homes, utilities, businesses, schools, and healthcare facilities.

The new figures come from the Gaza Strip Interim Damage Assessment published by the World Bank and the United Nations on Tuesday. The damage to Gaza as of the end of January amounted to 97% of the 2022 gross domestic product of both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the report authors found.

"The level of destruction in the Gaza Strip since October 2023 is unprecedented," the report says.

Comparing the current onslaught to previous Israeli attacks on Gaza, the report finds that it caused 90 times more damage to social sectors than in 2021 and 17 times more than in 2014.

The most hard-hit sector was housing, accounting for 72% of total losses. Israel's invasion has destroyed or damaged around 62% of Gaza's homes and apartments, leaving more than 1.08 million people with no safe dwelling to return to. Almost three-quarters of the destruction to housing was concentrated in the municipalities of Gaza City, Jabalya, Khan Younis, Beit Lahiya, and Rafah.

Critical infrastructure like water facilities, hospitals, and schools made up 19% of the total damages, with almost 84% of healthcare facilities either damaged or destroyed. The report concludes that the education system had "effectively collapsed." No children are now in school, as the invasion has destroyed around 56 schools, damaged 219, and destroyed or damaged 63% of university or college campuses. It has also damaged or destroyed 61.5% of Gaza's electricity network and around 57% of its water infrastructure, and the water and sanitation system can only fulfill less than 5% of its pre-invasion function.

The remaining 9% of the damages were inflicted on commercial or industrial buildings. Israel has destroyed or damaged nearly 4 of every 5 businesses, contributing to an unemployment rate greater than 50%.

The report also records damages to agriculture and the environment, with food production "virtually ceased." More than a quarter of the vital Wadi Gaza ecosystem has been destroyed, and the air, land, and soil are now all polluted with munitions, chemicals, and physical rubble. Israel's bombing campaign has left behind an estimated 26 million tons of debris that will take years of work and $327 million to clear.

All told, the invasion has destroyed more than 60% of infrastructure across all sectors with the exception of water, sanitation, and hygiene.

"In several sectors, the rate of damage appears to be leveling off due to the fact that a majority of assets have already been damaged or destroyed," the report authors noted.

The report also considers how all this physical damage has harmed the human population of Gaza, leading to "an unprecedented and rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis."

"All of Gaza's population has seen its physical, economic, and psychosocial well-being directly and profoundly affected by the conflict," it concludes.

As of Wednesday, the death toll had surpassed 32,900, with women and children accounting for a majority of those numbers. Thousands of people have sustained life-altering injuries, and around 1.7 million people, or 75% of Gaza's population, have been forced from their homes.

"More than half the population of Gaza is on the brink of famine, and the entire population is experiencing acute food insecurity and malnutrition," the report continues.

As the siege and invasion persist, some are more vulnerable than others.

"Catastrophic cumulative impacts on physical and mental health have hit women, children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities the hardest, with the youngest children anticipated to be facing lifelong consequences to their development," the World Bank said in a statement.

The report comes a little more than a week after a draft U.N. report concluding that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza and days after an investigation determining Israel's destruction of agriculture and environment in the strip was tantamount to ecocide.

In response to the new report, U.N. Environment Program Executive Director Inger Andersen posted on social media that a cease-fire was "urgently needed to save lives and restore environment."

The report says that full recovery would take years, but advises that efforts begin "as soon as the situation allows." It suggests that these efforts should prioritize reestablishing education, healthcare, housing, water, electricity, communications, food production, and the ability to earn a living.

"The feasibility of most of these actions will be highly dependent on entry of materials and equipment, safe access to sites and clarity of governance, and security arrangements," the report says.

However, it came the same day that an Israeli strike on a World Central Kitchen convoy killed seven aid workers, prompting WCK and other aid organizations to pause their work in the strip out of concerns for the safety of their staff.

Olivia Rosane is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.



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