Gaza War: This Is What Israel Showed the World. This Was the Reality on the Ground

Compare the missile strikes during the recent round of fighting as seen and heard on the ground in Gaza versus the images released by the IDF Spokesman

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The bombing of the Antaj Bank in Gaza City on May 14, 2021, as seen from the street versus the images released by the IDF Spokesman.
The bombing of the Antaj Bank in Gaza City on May 14, 2021, as seen from the street versus the images released by the IDF Spokesman. Credit: Mohammed Abed / AFP and IDF Spokesman
Yarden Michaeli
Yarden Michaeli
Yarden Michaeli
Yarden Michaeli

Throughout the military campaign in the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces meticulously published multiple daily updates for the public about its activity. These updates presumably reveal what was happening. But what can we learn from them? The images generally were without exact names of what was attacked, and without captions.

Most of the video clips and the photos the IDF released focus on a specific target without showing the surroundings, even though many of the targets are in the heart of civilian population centers. The absence of people is blatant, and the images don’t show how the bombings affected life in densely populated Gaza.

But the IDF images aren't the only documentation of the strikes: In order to get a more complete picture Haaretz collected satellite photos, photos from professional photographers inside Gaza, and testimony and video clips recorded by Gaza residents. Information from human rights and journalistic freedom organizations helps complete the picture.

All of these show the huge disparity between a war as seen from a black-and-white computer screen, and the massive, terrifying destruction that almost all Gaza residents hear and feel as they're trapped in the confrontation between the IDF and Hamas.

Below are five examples showing the IDF’s publication versus documention from the scene.

Al Jawhara Tower, Gaza City

The building is located at the intersection of Al Jalaa and Al Wahda streets in the center of Gaza City. The missile strikes began at about 9 P.M. on May 11, and continued until 2:20 A.M. the following morning, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. The group also provided the other details, such as the hours of the strikes, the addresses of buildings and the number of bombs.

What the IDF showed (all the IDF video clips were originally released without sound):

A video from the IDF’s YouTube channel showing the strike on the Al Jawhara TowerCredit: IDF Spokesman

What they saw and heard in Gaza (all the videos from the field include sound):

The strike on the Al Jawhara Tower in the early hours of May 12. Credit: Hassan Asliah

What was in the building, according to the IDF Spokesperson statement:

“The building houses Hamas’ intelligence headquarters, West Bank headquarters, PR department and Gaza Brigade. The IDF warned civilians in the building and gave them enough time to evacuate”

What else was in the building:

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the building included residential apartments, offices, an internet company and medical clinics. The offices of 14 media outlets were located in the building, according to Journalists Without Borders. The building suffered serious damage, and nearby stores and buildings were also hit. According to a BBC report, despite the IDF announcement about evacuation, civilians were killed in the bombing.

Dalia, 48, told Haaretz journalist Amira Hass after the bombing: “There’s a neighborhood generator from which we buy electricity, but it was hit in the bombing of the Jawhara building. All the nearby buildings were demolished. I live in the city center, near everything, and I can’t get anything. There isn’t even a needle to be found on the street.” In the days following the bombing, residents tried to extricate items that were left behind, and later continued to search for a place to live. For example, in the photo you can see children with items that were rescued from their home in the tower.

Children who lived in the Al Jawhara Tower, on May 17. The tenants were given a short time to evacuate.Credit: Anas Baba / AFP
Destruction near the Al Jawhara Tower after it was bombed by the IDF on May 12. Windows in adjacent buildings were shattered, doors were torn off, and cables fell.Credit: Fatima Shbair / Getty Images Europe

Al Shourouk tower, Gaza City

At about 6:30 P.M. on May 12, military planes launched 10 missiles at the 13-story building on Omar Mukhtar Street in Rimal, a neighborhood in the center of Gaza City.

What the IDF showed:

The Al Shorouk tower as seen in IDF publications.Credit: IDF Spokesperson

What they saw and heard in Gaza:

The bombing of the Al Shorouk tower in the evening hours of May 12. Credit: Social networks

What was in the building, according to the IDF Spokesperson statement:

"A strategic high-rise building belonging to Hamas. This 14-story building housed the organization’s military intelligence offices and communications infrastructures the terror organizations used to transmit tactical military messages.”

What else was in the building:

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the building housed several civilian institutions, and nearby buildings and stores were heavily damaged during the tower's demolition. According to Journalists Without Borders, the building housed offices of seven media outlets. In all, the offices of more than 20 media outlets were destroyed in the attacks.

Saleh Hijazi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, discussed the demolition of the Al Shorouk tower and additional high-rise buildings. “Deliberate targeting of civilian objects and extensive, unjustified destruction of property are war crimes. Destroying entire multi-storey homes making tens of families homeless amounts to collective punishment of the Palestinian population and is a breach of international law.”

Hijazi added, “Even if part of a building is being used for military purposes Israeli authorities have an obligation to choose means and methods of attack that would minimize risks posed to civilians and their property.”

These photos show damage caused to adjacent buildings by the bombing of Al Shorouk, as well as the building’s central location and its proximity to other buildings.

A Gaza man clearing away rubble after the bombing of the Al Shorouk tower by the IDF a day earlier, on May 13. The building housed the offices of the Al-Aqsa TV station, among other organizations.Credit: Mohammed Abed / AFP
The ruins of Al Shorouk tower in the heart of Gaza as seen in a satellite photo from May 16.Credit: Planet Labs / AP

Antaj Bank, Gaza City

At about 5:15 P.M. on May 14, warplanes launched four missiles at the Palestinian bank in the Nur al-Din building on Izz al-Din al Qassam Street.

What the IDF showed:

A video showing the attack on the Antaj Bank published by the IDF on its YouTube channel.Credit: IDF Spokesperson

What they saw and heard in Gaza:

A video showing the attack on the Antaj Bank on May 14.Credit: Social networks

The video shows the bombing of the Antaj Bank in the early evening of May 14. As in many cases, residents gathered to watch the bombing from a distance.

What was in the building, according to the IDF Spokesperson:

"A high-rise building that houses the Palestinian bank that serves Hamas. The attack is a blow to Hamas’ financial administration, since the branch was a tool for managing the cash flow of the terror organization and its military branch."

What else was in the building:

The building had five stories. The bank was on the ground floor and above it lived five families. Eyewitnesses told the Turkish Anadolu news agency that the strikes caused heavy damage to nearby buildings and stores. The attack caused panic among patients at Shifa Hospital, not far from the bank. Photos show the bank's central location and its proximity to other buildings.

The strike on the Antaj Bank in Gaza City on May 14.Credit: AFP Mohammed Abed / AFP

Al Jalaa Tower, Gaza City

At about 3:15 P.M. on May 15, warplanes launched six missiles at the Al Jalaa Tower on Al Jalaa Street in Gaza City.

What the IDF showed:

The Al Jalaa Tower as seen in IDF publications.Credit: IDF Spokesperson

What they saw and heard in Gaza:

The IDF's May 15 strike on the Al Jalaa tower, as seen on AFP's YouTube channel.Credit: AFP YouTube channel

What was in the building, according to the IDF Spokesperson:

"A high-rise building that includes Hamas military intelligence assets. The building contains offices of civilian media outlets. Hamas hides behind them, using them as human shields. The terror organization purposefully places its military assets in the heart of the civilian population. Prior to the attack, the IDF warned the civilians living in the building and gave them enough time to evacuate.”

What else was in the building:

The 12-story building contained apartments, offices and organizations - particularly media outlets, including the main Gaza offices of Al-Jazeera and the Associated Press. Doctors and lawyers also had offices there. According to The Guardian, the building also housed several internet service providers. The owner of the building was documented asking the Israeli military contact for another 10 minutes in order to remove newspaper equipment from the building. The contact said no.

Photos show several tenants evacuating, and a satellite photo shows the building's central location and proximity to other buildings.

A family that lived in the Al Jalaa tower fleeing before the IDF airstrike. The strike was carried out about an hour after the army ordered the building evacuated.Credit: Hatem Moussa / AP
The ruins of the Al Jalaa tower in the heart of Gaza as seen in a satellite photo on May 16, a day after it was bombed.Credit: Planet Labs / AP

Hanadi Tower, Gaza City

At around 7:35 P.M. on May 11, IDF aircraft launched seven missiles at the Hanadi building, which was located near the Gaza City port.

What the IDF showed:

The strike on the Hanadi Tower, published to the IDF's YouTube channel.Credit: IDF Spokesperson

What they saw and heard in Gaza:

The strike on the Hanadi Tower as seen from within Gaza on the evening of May 11.Credit: Social networks

What was in the building, according to the IDF:

“A high-rise building used for military research and development and the offices of Hamas military intelligence.”

What else was in the building:

The tower was totally demolished. Nearby buildings and towers suffered extensive damage. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, about 15 minutes before the missiles were fired, the building custodian received a call from an undisclosed number. The caller instructed him to tell the building’s tenants, and those in nearby towers, to evacuate immediately. The Hanadi Tower had 14 stories and housed many apartments and offices. It was also used by government ministries.

Maryam, 50, described the attack: “With every shelling I feel all of Gaza shaking. As though everything is turning upside down. What’s inside the ground is kicked out. Like an ongoing earthquake. They bomb, and the sound of children’s screams erupts from the surrounding apartments and houses.” Maryam said that she saw a mass flight of tenants from the towers being attacked.

One of the tenants in the building said in an interview with the Middle East Eye network: “No signs of life remained. All my memories. We lived in this building for 14 years. They’ve erased all our memories. Everything is gone, we left everything behind. It’s a disaster in the true sense of the word. It’s as though you’re reborn – you don’t have a thing. We fled without a thing.” The same tenant and her family searched for items among the ruins of the building. “Anything we could use in order to survive. Clothing, anything. Anything that could help us to get through the coming days.”

The bombing of the Hanadi tower in Gaza City on May 11.Credit: Mahmud Hams / AFP
The ruins of the Hanadi tower in the heart of Gaza as seen in a satellite photo from May 16.Credit: Planet Labs / AP

Widespread damage in Gaza

The IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip made tens of thousands of people flee their homes, fearing for their lives. Some began to return after the ceasefire. However, many residents of Gaza say there’s nowhere to flee to. As of the day of the ceasefire on May 21, some 248 people had been killed in IDF attacks on Gaza, including 66 children and 39 women. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, nearly 2,000 people were wounded

The bombings also caused widespread damage, both on their targets as well as to buildings and infrastructure nearby. According to the United Nations, six hospitals were hit and 450 buildings were completely demolished. The only COVID-19 laboratory in Gaza was destroyed, a desalination facility that provided water to 250,000 people was put out of commission, and dozens of schools were hit or closed. Pipes that provided drinking water to 800,000 people were damaged. About 2 million people live in Gaza, and almost all of them were affected by the fighting.

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