The latest wave Violence between Israel and Palestine ended on May 20 after both sides agreed to a ceasefire.
The Gaza Strip suffered the most deaths and destruction, with airstrikes killing more than 230 people and destroying more than a thousand residential and commercial buildings. The New York Times Landscape description Multiple hospitals, power lines, schools, sewers and roads have been damaged or destroyed as a “sea of rubble.”
Palestinians are now embarking on a long process of reconstruction, looking back on the conflict for indications of human rights violations, backed by humanitarian organizations and supported by investigative journalists. But that task is becoming more difficult and expensive due to the lack of good satellite imagery of Israel and Palestine in free mapping tools.
On top of the violence, Open source investigators mentioned on Twitter Areas like Gaza appear to be very blurry on platforms like Google Earth that collect satellite images from a variety of sources. A vague U.S. regulation called the Kyle-Bingaman Amendment prohibited American companies from supplying high-resolution satellite imagery to the region due to Israeli security concerns. There was control Canceled last year, And the limit is now the same as the resolution allowed for other parts of the world. Many commercial satellite image providers, such as Planet Labs, have quickly adjusted their products, while popular free tools, including Google Earth, have not.
Planet Labs provides and a comparison between the images found in Google Earth shows quite a difference in resolution.
More accurate images make it possible to view building features, count individual trees, identify vehicles on the street, and count lines printed on sidewalks. They further show the exact size of things like color variations, squares and blocks. And in free services, satellite images of Israel and Palestine are updated less frequently than in other parts of the world. In Google Earth, for example, some areas of New York City have only five separate satellite images for 2020, while some areas of Gaza City have five images over the past 35 years.
It makes a big difference to the people on the ground, including the humanitarian agencies trying to help the Palestinians rebuild.
Risky and more defective
The International Committee of the Red Cross has been working in Israel and Palestine since the 1960s, providing health care and other assistance to people during and after the outbreak of violence. It helps rebuild communities. In the Gaza Strip, the ICRC is repairing water systems, electricity networks and sewers.
Many of these activities involve the use of satellite imagery. “In times of conflict, we use imagery to determine the extent of the damage and destruction,” said Christoph Hanger, spokesman for the ICRC. And when it is allowed to enter a conflict zone, it uses images to plan its movement. Once the conflict is over, “updated satellite imagery is essential to detect terrestrial changes,” Hanger said, to identify areas where air strikes affect buildings and infrastructure and should be given more attention.
Images provided by free tools like Google Earth are too low for ICRC use. Poor resolution, Hanger says, “increases the likelihood of misinterpretation of the image and results in an effective response.” As a result, he added, the company is forced to use commercial satellite image providers, which are more expensive, and require additional human resources.
Images of degraded satellites also affect people far away from Israel and Palestine: digital investigators are taking images and videos of the conflict to identify potential human rights abuses. They use online shared information available on social media, content shared on social media, images and videos created by Israelis and Palestinians, and satellite images available on free tools like Google Earth.