Saturday, October 28, 2023

Israel / Palestine: Map of Control Before Israel's Gaza Invasion (October 27, 2023)

There are newer editions of this map available. To see them, view all Israel articles or Palestine articles on PolGeoNow.

This map shows the approximate situation early on October 27, 2023, before Israel's announced expansion of military activity within the Gaza Strip. At the time of publication, it's still unclear whether the expected Israeli ground invasion has begun, and little is known of the current situation within the Strip.

Map of who controlled Palestine and Israel's claimed territories early on October 27, 2023, before the expansion of Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip that may signal the start of the expected ground invasion. Shows both Israeli and Palestinian Authority administration (Fatah and Hamas factions indicated separately). Includes bigger West Bank map (Area A, Area B, and Area C). Map also includes Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, major cities and Israeli settlements, UN peacekeeper deployments (UNIFIL in Lebanon and UNDOF in Syria), no man's land, Golan Heights buffer zone (area of separation, AOS), and Shebaa Farms. Now also shows Israel's closed military zones (closed military areas) and key towns and sites from the news, like Sderot, Netivot, Erez Crossing, Rafah, Khan Yunis, Tulkarm, and Kiryat Shmona (Qiryat Shemona). Colorblind accessible.
Click to enlarge. Map by Evan Centanni, incorporating base map by Koen Adams of and data from B'Tselem's interactive mapping project. (Contact us for permission to use this map.)

Timeline by Djordje Djukic, with additional reporting by Evan Centanni

2023 Israel-Hamas Control Map: Temporary Equilibrium

It's been almost three weeks since Palestinian group Hamas and allies burst unexpectedly out of the Gaza Strip, taking brief but unprecedented control over parts of Israel proper (see our map of the height of Hamas control). Israel's long-promised counter-invasion of the Strip may now be starting, two weeks after its military restored the lines of control to roughly the same as before the Hamas attack. But during the wait, there's been no end to violence: Israel has retaliated against Hamas with heavy bombing of that group's stronghold, the densely-populated Gaza Strip, while both Hamas in Gaza and allied Hezbollah in Lebanon have continued striking Israel with rockets and missiles launched across the borders. 

Israel reports that at least 1,400 of its people have been killed, including over 1,000 civilians - mostly in the first day of Hamas's October 7 invasion - while the Gaza Health Ministry says over 7,000 total Palestinian fighters and civilians have been killed, about 3,000 of them under the age of 18 (the ministry is part of the Hamas-dominated government of the Gaza Strip, but is generally evaluated as credible by outside observers).

The Gaza Strip: Hamas Control

Hamas and allied groups have been pushed back from Israel proper since the moment depicted in our previous control map. But, at least as of early yesterday, they remained in control of the Gaza Strip - on the ground, that is. Israel still controls the airspace above the Strip, as it has since 1967. And with Israel's "complete siege" of the territory and promises for a future rethinking of its policies there, even the Palestinian-accessible "Gaza fishing zone" at sea is presumably gone, with an uncertain future.

The status of the narrow Israel-controlled buffer zone just inside the Gaza Strip border (not easily visible on our map) has been uncertain over the past few weeks - though Israel's military has recently said it "continues to operate on both sides" of the border fence, there are also stories of its troops sometimes being unable to do that. The Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel proper, for its part, was apparently not fully recaptured by the Israeli military until October 19, a week after it retook all land outside the Strip.

Israel Itself: Closed Military Zones and Emergency Measures

Our map distinguishes between areas under Israeli civilian authority and Israeli military authority, with the "military authority" color previously used only for "Area C" of the West Bank, which isn't officially part of Israel, but is outside the agreed-upon jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. However, things have gotten a bit more complicated.

In fact, the whole of Israel is now under a kind of "military authority", with the country's declaration of war against Hamas giving the Defense Ministry the power to order school and workplace closures and limits to the size of gatherings. Different areas are subject to different levels of restrictions, mostly depending on their distance from the Gaza Strip or Lebanon, with the details posted on a military website (link may not be accessible from outside Israel without the use of a VPN). Of course, these areas are still subject to Israeli civilian law too, which covers a broader range of matters, so on our map we've chosen not to depict the entire country as under "military authority" instead of "civilian authority".

On the other hand, this emergency authority also allows the military to establish "closed military zones", banning the general public from entry into specific areas, and it's so far created two such zones: The first, declared October 11, covers a substantial area surrounding the Gaza Strip, including the Israeli towns of Sderot and Netivot, while the second, established October 15, covers a narrower strip along the Israeli side of the Lebanon border. From news reports, PolGeoNow gathers that evacuees from these areas are not allowed to return, farmers are not allowed to enter to access their own land, and journalists require permission from the military to enter. However, evacuation isn't mandatory for local residents, at least in the zone bordering the Gaza Strip, and some of them are still living inside.

Because military control of these closed zones is much more all-encompassing, we've chosen to show them as areas of "military authority" rather than "civilian authority" on our map, though the military administration there isn't the same as in the West Bank, where a specific office of the Israeli Defense Ministry is in charge of implementing a quasi-civilian government system.

Flag of Israel Country Name:  
• Israel (English)
Yisra'el (Hebrew)
ʼIsrāʼīl (Arabic)
Full Declared Name:  
• State of Israel (English) 
• Medinat Yisra'el (Hebrew)
Dawlat ʼIsrāʼīl (Arabic)
• Jerusalem (functioning but disputed)

Israel-Palestine Conflict Timeline: Between Hamas's Invasion and Israel's

The following is a timeline of changes to territorial control and other key happenings in the Israel/Palestine conflict, plus related geopolitical events, since the date of our previous control map report on October 13. This covers the period between Hamas's full expulsion from Israeli territory and Israel's "expansion" of ground operations in the Gaza Strip yesterday, which may signal the beginning of its long-expected counter-invasion. Sources are provided as links within the text.

Note that, though our previous map showed the situation as of October 7, events from October 7 through October 12 are covered in that report instead of this one.

October 13, 2023

The Israeli military issued an order to some 1.1 million civilians in the northern part of the Gaza Strip to evacuate to the southern part within 24 hours, ahead of an expected Israeli ground invasion of the Palestinian territory. The United Nations called the military’s evacuation order “impossible”.

Meanwhile, a Reuters journalist was killed and six other journalists wounded by an Israeli missile strike in southern Lebanon.

October 14, 2023

In an airstrike, Israel claimed to have killed Murad Abu Murad, the head of Hamas’s “aerial forces” (presumably referring to the group’s drone operations, unless missiles or paragliders count). Israel announced a 6-hour window for civilians to evacuate through two designated “safe routes”. However, an Israeli airstrike on a civilian convoy along one of the two routes reportedly left 70 people dead. The Israeli military denied this. Elsewhere, an Israeli soldier was killed by friendly fire in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, an Israeli drone strike on the Israel-Lebanon border reportedly killed three Hamas infiltrators. Hezbollah, a powerful military and political group that dominates much of Lebanon and supports Hamas, then shelled five Israeli military positions on the border. Israeli shelling of southern Lebanon also killed two civilians in Shebaa town, according to the local mayor. One Hezbollah fighter was also confirmed killed during the day.

In the north of Syria, Israeli airstrikes hit the airport at the city of Aleppo (see our Syria control map series for location), damaging the facility’s runway and knocking it out of service just hours after it had been fixed following a similar Israeli attack three days earlier. The airport is suspected to be part of a supply route for Iranian aid to Lebanon’s Hezbollah (a close ally of the Syrian government), but is also used for civilian passenger flights.

The US sent a second group of armed navy ships to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, saying the purpose was to discourage Hezbollah or other anti-Israel parties from fully entering the war, while the country’s special forces were assisting the Israeli military in planning and intelligence. A large number of aircraft were also heading to US military bases in the Middle East. The first group of US navy ships had arrived on October 11. Two days later, a US Marines rapid response force was also sent to Israeli waters.

October 15, 2023

Hezbollah missile attacks launched from Lebanon left one Israeli soldier and one civilian dead near the border, while three civilians were wounded. The same day, the Israeli military declared all areas within 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) of the Lebanon border to be off limits to the public. A similar, but larger “closed military zone” had been declared in areas near the Gaza Strip four days earlier, and would continue to be in place in the following weeks despite some civilian residents being allowed to stay.

Flag of Palestine Claimed Country Name:  
• Palestine (English)
Filasṭīn (Arabic)
Full Declared Name:  
• State of Palestine (English)
• Dawlat Filasṭin (Arabic)
• Jerusalem (claimed; not controlled)
Ramallah (administrative; Fatah faction)
• Gaza City (administrative; Hamas faction)

October 16, 2023

A rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip, presumably by Hamas or the smaller allied group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), targeted Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The barrage caused  the Knesset, Israel’s Jerusalem-based national legislature, to interrupt one of its sessions for its members to be evacuated to shelters.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military was evacuating civilians from 28 communities up to two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the Lebanese border, within the northern “closed military zone”, due to repeated attacks by Hezbollah and Palestinian groups.

October 17, 2023

A large number of civilians, including many children, were killed when an explosion hit the grounds of a major Christian-run hospital in Gaza City. Estimates of the deaths ranged from as low as 50 according to some pro-Israel Western media, to between 100 and 300 according to the US government, to almost 500 according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. 

Hamas blamed an Israeli airstrike for the explosion, while Israel said it was the result of a rocket misfire by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). US President Biden said his country’s military thought Israel’s story was correct, and French intelligence services later expressed agreement, while many Arab countries, including some that have good relations with Israel, blamed and condemned Israel for the explosion. PIJ denied responsibility.

Distant video footage from the time of the blast, showing a midair rocket failure just before the hospital blast, was cited by the Israeli and US governments as part of the evidence that it was caused by a rocket launched from within Gaza. However, a New York Times analysis examining simultaneous footage from other angles concluded that the rockets seen in the video were not related to the hospital blast, with the midair explosion taking place far behind the hospital along the Israel-Gaza Strip border. 

Some early reporting mentioned that the blast seemed to have been too big to be caused by Hamas or PIJ rockets, though Israel later argued that the crater from the blast was in fact too small to have been caused by its own bombs. Several analysts consulted by Western media agreed that the damage was inconsistent with a direct Israeli strike, though this might not rule out other kinds of explosions caused by Israeli weapons. None of the cited reports ruled out Israel’s version of the story either, with many Western analysts saying that a failed Palestinian rocket seemed like the most likely cause of the blast. 

The UK’s Channel 4 News, on the other hand, favored the conclusion that the source of the blast came from the direction of Israel, citing professional acoustic analysis of a video from nearby, as well as a university lab’s visual analysis of the blast crater. It also cited professional analysis concluding that an Israel-provided audio recording, in which purported Hamas members discussed PIJ’s responsibility for the explosion, was too heavily edited to be treated as good evidence (other major Western media outlets simply stated that they couldn’t confirm the recording’s authenticity). A previous report from Channel 4 had pointed out examples of the Israeli military trying to cover up internationally-controversial mistakes in the past, and also cited two unidentified Arab journalists as saying that the accent and language use of the voices in the recording didn’t credibly sound like Hamas members. 

By this point, five shipments of US military aid had arrived in Israel, after the first wave was sent on October 10.

October 18, 2023

It was reported that seven Hezbollah fighters had been killed in fighting that had taken place at several locations along the Israel-Lebanon border over the past 24 hours.

Elsewhere, two drones were launched against a US military base at Tanf in southern Syria (see our Syria control map series for location). One of the drones was shot down, while the second caused minor injuries to 20 US soldiers. The US government blamed the attack on Iran-backed forces (Iran-supported militias allied with the Syrian government are known to oppose the US in Syria).

Far to the east of the Israel/Palestine area, a drone strike targeted the US’s Al Asad Airbase in western Iraq (see PolGeoNow’s Iraq control map series for location), injuring four US soldiers. Another US military base farther north in Iraq, located northeast of Erbil in the Kurdistan region, was also targeted by a drone. Overall, at least 30 US soldiers had suffered minor injuries during attacks throughout the day in Syria and Iraq.

October 19, 2023

Fighting between Israeli and Palestinian forces in a refugee camp near the West Bank city of Tulkarm left 13 Palestinians and one Israeli border officer dead. The clashes reportedly began when Israeli forces entered the camp, part of the Palestinian-governed “Area A” (dark blue on our map), to arrest a small number of people they said “posed a threat” to Israeli soldiers. Reports reviewed by PolGeoNow were unclear about which Palestinian groups were involved in fighting against the Israeli forces, but they likely acted independently from the Fatah-led Palestinian government of the area, which continues to insist it’s committed to nonviolence. Nine more Israeli officers were wounded, while 12 of the Palestinian deaths were attributed to a drone strike. Two other Palestinians were killed in clashes elsewhere in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military recaptured the Erez Crossing between Israel proper and the north end of the Gaza Strip, 12 days after it was captured by Hamas during the group’s initial invasion into Israel.

Rocket strikes from southern Lebanon into northern Israel left three civilians injured in Kiryat Shmona town, with Israeli forces retaliating by striking Hezbollah positions inside Lebanon. Hamas, which is allied with Hezbollah and has some fighters in Lebanon, claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks. The next day, the Israeli military would order the evacuation of Kiryat Shmona, which was already located mostly within the 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) “closed military area”, and is by far the largest Israeli town so close to the Lebanon border.

Elsewhere, a US Navy warship near the country of Yemen, far to the south of the Israel/Palestine area, intercepted and shot down four ballistic missiles and 15 drones over 9 hours, all of which were said to have been fired in the general direction of Israel by the Iran-backed Houthi forces in that country. Though officially considered a rebel group by the rest of the world’s countries, the Houthis govern the majority of Yemen’s populated areas, as seen in PolGeoNow’s Yemen control map series. Another missile was intercepted by Saudi Arabia.

A new package of US military aid arrived in Israel.

October 20, 2023

One Israeli soldier, a dual Israeli-American citizen, was killed, and three more wounded, in fighting along the Israeli-Lebanon border just to the west of Kiryat Shmona.

Meanwhile, Hamas released two American captives, and the United Nations reported that 1.4 million people had been displaced in the Gaza Strip due to the conflict.

October 21, 2023

Egypt’s border crossing with the Gaza Strip at Rafah opened to let badly needed humanitarian aid into the Palestinian territory, after the infrastructure on the Gaza side of the crossing had been damaged by Israeli strikes.

Meanwhile, six more Hezbollah fighters and one Palestinian fighter were killed in fighting along the Israeli-Lebanon border, with Israeli strikes in the area reportedly increasing. A Hezbollah official said this was the first time since the beginning of the new conflict that Israel had used crewed airplanes rather than drones to conduct strikes in Lebanon.

October 22, 2023

A new Israeli airstrike on the airport of Syria’s capital city Damascus (see our Syria control map series for location) left two workers dead. Around the same time, a shell fired by an Israeli tank at the Egyptian border near the Gaza Strip injured seven Egyptian border guards. Though Egypt has expressed anger at Israel’s bombing of Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip, it has a long-established peaceful relationship with Israel, and the Israeli military said the strike was an accident.

A rocket attack again targeted the US’s Al Asad Airbase in western Iraq, a day after US forces had shot down two drones hovering over the base. Though the initial report didn’t specify who launched the attack, the base is known for being a target for Iran-backed militias.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said it was evacuating 14 more communities near the border with Lebanon, bringing to 105 the total number of Israeli communities ordered to evacuate (including both those along the Lebanon border and those near the Gaza Strip). Around 200,000 Israelis were expected to be displaced by the evacuation orders. The communities ordered to evacuate in Israel’s south lay within a four- to seven-kilometer (2.5- to 4-mile) distance from the edge of the Gaza Strip, apparently corresponding to the “close military area”, though some civilians still remained.

Israel's Minister of Economy Nir Barkat threatened both Iran and Lebanon, reportedly saying that Israel would "wipe" them "off the face of the Earth" if Hezbollah were to open up a northern front in the ongoing war. This was perhaps a response to the Iranian president’s infamous 2005 threat to do the same thing to Israel - a threat that, though argued to have originally been a mistranslation, came to be repeated explicitly in Iranian government propaganda.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also threatened Hezbollah. The day before, Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Sheikh Naim Kassem, had stated that the group was "in the heart of the battle”. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (the country’s equivalent of a Foreign Minister) also threatened Iran, saying "we'll be prepared" if the country takes action to escalate the violence. Two days later, he would say the US planned to respond "decisively" to any attack by Iran’s “proxies” - an implied reference to Hezbollah, and potentially to other groups such as the Houthis in Yemen or Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq.

October 23, 2023

One Israeli soldier was killed and three were wounded in an Israeli military raid in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, apparently east of Khan Yunis. Meanwhile, two more hostages were released by Hamas. It was confirmed that a remaining 224 people were still being held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas or allied fighters after being taken captive in the Palestinian groups’ initial attack on October 7.

US military officers, including Marine Lieutenant General James Glynn, reportedly arrived in Israel to help the Israeli military prepare its plans for a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

October 24, 2023

Over the past 24 hours, 704 Palestinians had reportedly been killed in Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Hamas launched possibly the largest rocket barrage into Israel since its invasion on October 7, centered on Tel Aviv but also targeting other cities in central Israel. At least five Israelis were wounded. Meanwhile, the expected Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip was delayed, reportedly due to “tactical and strategic factors”.

A new rocket attack targeted the US’s Al Asad Airbase in western Iraq (see PolGeoNow’s Iraq control map series for location). The US accused Iran of “actively facilitating” rocket and drone attacks by its “proxies” on US troops in Syria and Iraq.

October 25, 2023

Israeli airstrikes on Syrian military positions in Syria’s Daraa province left 14 soldiers dead.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Hezbollah, Hamas, and PIJ met to discuss plans for their alliance to achieve “all-out victory” in the conflict with Israel.

October 26, 2023

Overnight, Israeli forces conducted an hour-long raid into the northern Gaza Strip using both tanks and infantry soldiers, destroying enemy positions in preparation for the expected Israeli invasion of the Strip. The Israeli military said its forces had penetrated “up to a kilometer” (0.6 miles) into the Strip before withdrawing back to Israel proper, in what was by far their deepest and largest-scale incursion into the territory since the current war began (the Strip ranges from about six to ten kilometers wide in its northern part, or four to six miles). The Israeli military also said its forces had separately struck more than 250 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip over the past day. Meanwhile, Hamas fired a new rocket barrage at Tel Aviv.

In southern Lebanon, Hezbollah was reported to have suffered its “deadliest day” in the conflict, with more than a dozen of its fighters killed over the previous 24 hours amid its cross-border clashes with Israel.

October 27, 2023

Over the past day, 298 Palestinians were reportedly killed in Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip.

By this point, the confirmed death toll from the violence had reached 1,400 on the Israeli side, including at least 1,033 civilians. According to the Gaza Health Ministry - which is under the Hamas government but includes many non-Hamas officials, and is often evaluated as reliable by Hamas-critical sources - a total of 7,326 Palestinians had been killed in the Gaza Strip, around 60 percent of them women and children. The Fatah-affiliated Palestinian Authority health ministry said 110 Palestinians had also been killed in the West Bank. The Israeli military said that its forces had killed at least 1,000 Palestinian fighters on Israeli territory, after having previously claimed the number to be closer to 1,500. Meanwhile, Israeli security forces were confirmed, by this point, to have suffered 378 dead, including seven killed on the border with Lebanon and one in the West Bank. In addition, 47 Hezbollah fighters, six Palestinian fighters, four Lebanese civilians, and one Israeli civilian had died in the fighting on the Israeli-Lebanon border since the start of the conflict, while 14 Syrian soldiers and two civilians were reported killed in Israeli strikes in Syria. 

A large number of foreign citizens, including dual nationals, were among those killed or taken captive. Among the dead (both civilians and soldiers) were 35 French people, 32 Americans, 30 Thais, 24 Ukrainians, 19 Russians, 10 Nepalis, 9 Argentines, 9 Portuguese people, 7 Ethiopians, 6 Britons, 6 Canadians, and at least 52 nationals of other countries. Three of the Ukrainians died in the Gaza Strip.

To check for future updates to this map, view all Israel or Palestine articles on PolGeoNow.