55% of structures destroyed in Gaza: It is no longer livable here

"The word ‘urbicide’ means the killing of cities ('urbs' + 'cide'). More generally, it refers to the deliberate, widespread destruction of the urban environment."

by Sead Dedovic
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55% of structures destroyed in Gaza: It is no longer livable here
© Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images News

While the greatest emphasis is placed on the number of casualties in Palestine, which is entirely reasonable, many overlook the urbicide happening in Gaza. According to the United Nations Satellite Center, over 55% of structures in Gaza have been destroyed since the beginning of the war. 

Continuous Israeli bombardments have made life in the enclave impossible, with housing nearly impossible to find. 

Mohammad al-Najjar, a resident from the northern Gaza camp, emphasizes that homes have been turned into rubble. Mohammad finds it difficult to recognize homes or know their whereabouts after their destruction. Gaza has been in massivechaos since last October: constant bombardments, restrictions on humanitarian aid, and a high number of casualties make life in this part of Palestine impossible. 

Further reports from the United Nations Satellite Center highlight that a total of 137,297 structures have been affected, which constitutes 55% of Gaza's structures. 

Thanks to satellite imagery, comparisons could be made between the situation in October last year and the current one. It is reported that 36,591 buildings have been identified, with 16,513 severely damaged, 47,368 moderately damaged, and 36,825 potential objects affected. The sum of these figures totals 137,297 objects.

The word urbicide: Meaning

Martin Coward, head of the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London, has decided to clarify the concept of urbicide for those unfamiliar with such a term. He emphasizes that the word "urbicide" refers to the killing of cities. Coward explains that beyond targeting purely houses or specific targets, the Israeli aim was to target urban factories as well.

"The word ‘urbicide’ means the killing of cities ('urbs' + 'cide'). More generally, it refers to the deliberate, widespread destruction of the urban environment. It refers to more than just the  destruction of strategic targets or houses, but a wide range of urban fabric," - Coward said, as reported by France 24.

Although some emphasize that Israelis primarily target objectives to make progress in the war and prevent the enemy, according to Coward's words, this is far from the truth. He believes that urbicide entails the violent destruction of something important for the city, something shared by all citizens. According to his words, the intention of the Israelis is to create conditions in which Palestinians will not be able to live in that area, and things will be far from urban.

“It is deliberate and not proportional to the strategic goals of war, and therefore violates the laws of war. Urbicide implies that this violence destroys something specific to the city – the plural, shared nature of the city. It is a way of making it impossible for those that are different to you to live in an urban space.”  - he said.

A missile strikes behind a minaret in Gaza on October 28, 2023 seen from Sderot, Israel
A missile strikes behind a minaret in Gaza on October 28, 2023 seen from Sderot, Israel© Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
 

Bosnian war

Coward reflected on the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina that occurred from 1992 to 1995, which involved similar methods by the Serbian army aimed at destroying cities inhabited by predominantly Bosniak population. Coward emphasizes that the primary purpose of destroying cities was to prevent people from returning to their homes. Coward also highlighted that even when the army occupied a city, soldiers would dynamite houses and demolish mosques, turning them into car parks. Thirty years later, it seems that a similar scenario is unfolding, this time not in Europe but in the Middle East. The Israeli army adopts similar strategies, evidently drawing from past examples.

A woman mourns after the mass funeral for 136 newly-identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
A woman mourns after the mass funeral for 136 newly-identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre (Bosnia and Herzegovina)© Matej Divizna/Getty Images News
 

The professor further addressed the killing of civilians, considering it a crime, while also emphasizing that prolonged destruction of infrastructure creates conditions in which people cannot live. He also did not forget to mention Ukraine and Bakhmut, seeing similar methods at work there. 

The world has been in complete chaos lately, and the conditions in which Palestinians and even Ukrainians in some parts live are not conducive to human habitation. Although the world is aware of this, no concrete steps are being taken, allowing things to unfold as they have been. 

The question is how long we will continue to witness the same scenarios year after year. Despite being in the 21st century, it doesn't seem that the human population has yet reached the necessary level of evolution, judging by the events in Palestine.

Leaders of major countries send warning messages, but it all ends there. Such messages do not seem sufficient, especially considering the high number of casualties and massive destruction of buildings, which do not inspire optimism that this war will end. Condemnatory messages should be the first step, followed by taking numerous actions. Clearly, leaders of major countries are not open to this approach.

It is to be hoped that chaos in Europe and the Middle East can become a thing of the past.

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