Gaza: Satellite images show speed and scale of Rafah evacuation

When Nahed Abu Eyada woke up on Monday morning, flyers were littering the streets outside her flat in Rafah.

The flyers, dropped by Israeli planes, warned of a coming offensive and ordered residents to evacuate the city's eastern districts. Hours later, the bombing started.

Nahed, 42, was staying in the Tal al Sultan neighbourhood, more than 4km from the evacuation zone.

"My area was not included," she said. "But the shelling and bombing reached us."

The footage below, captured by Palestinian journalist Ezzedine Muasher, shows the aftermath of a bombing in central Rafah on Wednesday, more than a kilometre from the evacuation zone.

Like many others in Tal al Sultan, Nahed decided to flee with her family, paying $200 (£160) for a taxi to the IDF-designated humanitarian zone. She says it was overcrowded and they were unable to find accommodation.

Satellite images from al Mawasi on Wednesday showed that hundreds of new tents have appeared since 24 April.

Israel has officially ordered around 100,000 residents of eastern Rafah to flee to al Mawasi.

Analysis by Sky News, however, suggests that the number fleeing Rafah may be larger than this. Hundreds of tents have been taken down across the city, in areas far outside the formal evacuation zone.

How the evacuation unfolded

The evacuation order was first published at 7.51am local time on Monday. Airstrikes followed, with ground operations beginning that evening. By Tuesday morning, Israel had captured the Rafah border crossing.

Images taken on Sunday evening show an estimated 321 tents in camps near the crossing. By Tuesday morning, however, there were just 62 - a decrease of 81%.

Footage posted online and verified by Sky News shows an Israeli tank firing at a structure in one of these camps early on Wednesday morning. In the background, a pile of rubble is visible where tents stood only days earlier.

Satellite images taken on Sunday showed an estimated 1,903 tents across 27 encampments within a kilometre of the evacuation zone. By Tuesday morning, all but 397 tents had been removed.

The removal of tents is not limited to areas bordering the evacuation zone. Satellite imagery shows that hundreds of tents were removed from Rafah's largest camp, more than 3km away, between 1 May and 8 May.

Separate imagery taken on 5 and 7 May shows how rapidly the camp was emptied following Israel's 6 May evacuation order.

Around 1.1 million people are thought to be sheltering in Rafah. Al Mawasi was home to just 64,000 people before the war, according to the UN.

"In al Mawasi, there is a severe lack of sufficient infrastructure, including water available, and it is not feasible to support tens of thousands of displaced people there," UNRWA spokesperson in Gaza, Louise Wateridge, said.

Palestinians who remain in Rafah are considering their options, amid continued bombing and the threat of a wider Israeli offensive.

Read more:
Netanyahu vows his country will 'stand alone' if it has to

UK drops aid into Gaza by parachute
How Israel launched its Rafah offensive

Click to subscribe to the Sky News Daily wherever you get your podcasts

Jenin Alassar, 22, fled her family home in eastern Rafah on Monday.

"They started calling our phones asking us to evacuate," she says.

"The first thing I did was cry while trying to deny the fact that we have to leave our home and stuff behind.

"I'm now at my relatives' house in central Rafah, but it's not too safe either so we might be evacuating another time today. We can hear tanks and shelling 24/7 and it hasn't stopped for a second.

"I was supposed to graduate this year, and I was hoping to travel and see the world, but right now I don't even know if I'll make it out of here alive."

The evacuation of eastern Rafah also forced the closure of the city's largest hospital, al Najjar.

Less than 800 metres from the evacuation zone, the European Hospital is the only major hospital in the area which is still functioning.

Dr Mosab Nasser leads a team of foreign volunteers at the European Hospital, which is operating on a skeleton staff after most employees fled to al Mawasi.

He says there is constant bombing near the hospital, and that in the last two days it has been overwhelmed with patients and evacuees. "The situation is horrible," he says.

Among those now sheltering at the hospital is Zinah Aldahdoh, 20, who has also heard frequent bombing nearby.

"If [the Israelis] enter the hospital like they did other hospitals, we will be displaced for the sixth time!" she says.

Additional reporting by Olive Enokido-Lineham and Sam Doak.

The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.