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Video shows aftermath of Israeli 2000-pound bomb drop on Gaza refugee camp
03:46 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

In the first month of its war in Gaza, Israel dropped hundreds of massive bombs, many of them capable of killing or wounding people more than 1,000 feet away, analysis by CNN and artificial intelligence company Synthetaic suggests.

Satellite imagery from those early days of the war reveals more than 500 impact craters over 12 meters (40 feet) in diameter, consistent with those left behind by 2,000-pound bombs. Those are four times heavier than the largest bombs the United States dropped on ISIS in Mosul, Iraq, during the war against the extremist group there.

Weapons and warfare experts blame the extensive use of heavy munitions such as the 2,000-pound bomb for the soaring death toll. The population of Gaza is packed together much more tightly than almost anywhere else on earth, so the use of such heavy munitions has a profound effect.

“The use of 2,000-pound bombs in an area as densely populated as Gaza means it will take decades for communities to recover,” said John Chappell, advocacy and legal fellow at CIVIC, a DC-based group focused on minimizing civilian harm in conflict.

Israel has come under pressure internationally over the scale of the devastation in Gaza, with even staunch ally US President Joe Biden accusing Israel of “indiscriminate bombing” of the coastal strip.

Israeli officials have argued that its heavy munitions are necessary to eliminating Hamas, whose fighters killed more than 1,200 people and took more than 240 hostages on October 7. They also claim that Israel is doing all it can to minimize civilian casualties.

“In response to Hamas’ barbaric attacks, the IDF is operating to dismantle Hamas’ military and administrative capabilities,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement in response to CNN’s reporting. “In stark contrast to Hamas’ intentional attacks on Israeli men, women and children, the IDF follows international law and takes feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm.”

Hamas relies on a sprawling tunnel network that is believed to crisscross the Gaza Strip. Proponents of Israel’s campaign in Gaza argue that the heavy munitions act as bunker busters, helping to destroy Hamas’ underground infrastructure.

But 2,000-pound bombs are normally used sparingly by Western militaries, experts say, because of their potential impact on densely populated areas like Gaza. International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate bombing.

Marc Garlasco a former US defense intelligence analyst and former UN war crimes investigator, said the density of Israel’s first month of bombardment in Gaza had “not been seen since Vietnam.”

Garlasco, now a military adviser at PAX, a Dutch non-governmental organization that advocates for peace, reviewed all the incidents analyzed in this report for CNN.

“You’d have to go back to the Vietnam war to make a comparison,” said Garlasco. “Even in both Iraq wars it was never that dense.”

The heavy munitions, mostly manufactured by the US, can cause high casualty events and can have a lethal fragmentation radius – an area of exposure to injury or death around the target – of up to 365 meters (about 1,198 feet), or the equivalent of 58 soccer fields in area.

Weapons and warfare experts blame the extensive use of heavy weaponry, such as the 2,000-pound bomb for the soaring death toll. According to authorities in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, about 20,000 people have been killed since October 7.

Most of the dead are women and children, according to those figures.

CNN partnered with US AI company Synthetaic which used Rapid Automatic Image Categorization (RAIC) to detect craters, smoke plumes and damaged buildings in tasked satellite imagery over the Gaza Strip. The findings were manually reviewed by a member of Synthetaic, as well as by CNN journalists.

CNN and Synthetaic’s findings “reveal and emphasize the sheer intensity of the bombardment over a very short period of time,” according to Annie Shiel, US advocacy director at CIVIC.

A man sits on debris as Palestinians conduct a search and rescue operation after the second bombardment to the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza City, on November 1.

A high-intensity offensive

For over two months, Israel has conducted a high-intensity war in Gaza, combining heavy aerial bombardment with relentless rounds of artillery fire, as well as a ground invasion that began on October 27.