In the latest satellite images obtained by Global Times journalists from the International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG Center), the Gaza Strip, renowned as one of the world’s most densely populated regions, is now shrouded in near-total darkness due to a severe power supply cutoff imposed by Israel. This abrupt transition from well-lit nights to obscurity underscores the harsh living conditions confronting the people of Gaza. Since the Israeli military initiated a water and power supply cutoff and implemented a comprehensive blockade on Monday, the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian Gaza Strip has taken a grim turn.
The Gaza Strip is a slender strip of land measuring approximately 41 kilometers in length and 6 to 12 kilometers in width, according to official Palestinian data. Housing more than 2 million people, primarily Palestinians, within an area of around 365 square kilometers, it stands out as one of the most densely populated places globally, akin to the population density of Madrid in Spain or London in the UK.
The nighttime satellite imagery of the Gaza Strip, captured around 10 pm local time on September 14th, using the SDG Center’s satellite’s low-light imaging tool, starkly portrays the region’s past illumination. Prior to the recent conflict between Palestine and Israel, the Gaza Strip used to be brightly illuminated at night, visually illustrating the region’s high population density.
A significant portion of the electricity supply in the Gaza Strip, approximately two-thirds, hails from Israel. However, on Wednesday, the sole power plant in Gaza had to halt its operations due to fuel shortages, following Israel’s announcement of a complete blockade on the region. Consequently, the entire area plunged into darkness, triggering an escalating humanitarian crisis.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health issued a dire warning on Wednesday, indicating that all hospitals in Gaza were on the brink of running out of fuel to power essential medical equipment, leading to “disastrous consequences.” On Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross raised an alarm, describing Gaza’s hospitals as transforming into “graveyards” due to the absence of a reliable power supply. The power outage has also disrupted local communication systems and jeopardized the preservation of daily food supplies for residents, who found themselves unable to access their savings from banks. UN Secretary-General António Guterres further emphasized on Friday that the power outage in Gaza has triggered a severe drinking water crisis.
The most recent satellite images captured around 10 pm local time on Thursday offer a stark depiction of the Gaza Strip after a complete power outage. The region is plunged into almost complete darkness at night, with only sporadic lights visible. This situation signifies the complete paralysis of the entire Gaza Strip, with the fundamental livelihoods of local residents hanging in the balance.
Satellites equipped with low-light imaging capabilities possess the unique ability to reflect the socioeconomic development and living standards of a region by detecting the intensity and distribution of nighttime lighting. Presently, a majority of these low-light imaging satellites are operated by China, the United States, and Israel. The US and Israel predominantly employ their low-light imaging satellites for military, environmental monitoring, and mapping purposes.
China’s Sustainable Development Scientific Satellite-1 stands out as the world’s inaugural scientific satellite explicitly designed to support the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This satellite was conceived and developed under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ “Earth Big Data Science Engineering” pilot initiative and represents the inaugural launch initiated by the SDG Center, a global research institution committed to advancing the UN’s agenda through the utilization of big data.
Upon becoming operational in orbit, this satellite’s data is shared worldwide, offering invaluable support for research focused on sustainable development goals, especially in the context of developing nations. It serves as an exemplary model for reducing the global disparities in sustainable development and bridging the digital divide that exists among different regions.