Israeli ground forces have damaged or destroyed at least six cemeteries during their advance into the northern Gaza Strip, most of them in recent weeks, according to an analysis of new satellite imagery and video footage by The New York Times.
In Gaza City’s Shajaiye neighborhood, where heavy combat raged in recent days, Israeli forces razed part of the Tunisian cemetery to set up a temporary military position. A satellite image from Sunday shows armored vehicles and earthen fortifications on what were intact graves days earlier.
The Israeli military did not respond to questions by The Times about its reason for razing the cemetery and whether it has taken any precautions to protect religious sites in Gaza. The laws of armed conflict consider the intentional destruction of religious sites without military necessity a possible war crime.
Much of the damage was inflicted this month, as Israeli forces advanced toward what Israeli officials believe are remaining Hamas strongholds in densely built-up areas of Gaza City. Israel appears to be using at least one cemetery as a temporary base for military vehicles.
Israeli military vehicles destroyed dozens of graves at a smaller cemetery in early December, next to an existing Israeli position half a mile to the northwest of the Tunisian cemetery. A video published by the Israeli military on Sunday shows soldiers apparently engaged in combat in the area.
On the same day, in the Jabaliya neighborhood of Gaza City, satellite imagery showed new tracks and possible military vehicles at Al-Faluja cemetery. Later video footage shows damage to gravesites but no established military positions.
A possible military position was set up at a cemetery in Beit Hanoun, also in northern Gaza.
No military vehicles are seen on the satellite image from Sunday, but similar earthen fortifications are comparable to those set up by Israeli forces at dozens of places in Gaza. These protective positions have been used only for a limited period of time as the ground offensive moves deeper into Gaza.
The other cemeteries The Times identified as razed by Israeli forces were in Sheik Ijlin, a neighborhood of Gaza City, and Beit Lahia, a city in Gaza’s far north.