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Israel completes construction of road which cuts across Gaza Strip

Satellite imagery shows Israeli forces have completed construction of a road cutting across the Gaza Strip to the south of Gaza City.

The images, captured by Planet Labs on the 6 March, show the new road running west from Israel's border and connecting with the Al Rashid coastal road by the Mediterranean Sea.

Located to the south of a logistics road built by Israeli forces earlier in the conflict, it measures just over 7km from end to end.

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Planet Labs Imagery showing progress of construction
Planet Labs Imagery showing progress of construction
Demolition of buildings at the site of the final section of road
Demolition of buildings at the site of the final section of road

Completed between 4 March and 6 March, the final section passes the ruins of a series of residential buildings that were filmed being demolished in December.

High-resolution satellite images showing areas on either side of the road reveal many buildings have been destroyed in its proximity.

Within this area, the University of Gaza's New Azhar Campus, residential buildings, and swathes of agricultural land appear to have been cleared.

Satellite images and content posted by an Israeli soldier on social media indicates that demolition work has been carried out at the site of the nearby Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital.

An Israeli soldier films himself destroying a building on the grounds of the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital
An Israeli soldier films himself destroying a building on the grounds of the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital

Reports about the construction of the road have been circulating since mid-February.

Known as Highway 749, it is reportedly intended to provide Israeli forces with a protected route through the interior of the Gaza Strip.

Surrounded by a partially-cleared corridor, it now cuts Gaza City off from the rest of the territory.

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Speaking to Israel's Channel 14 in February, a lieutenant colonel of the country's 601st Brigade said the project was intended to allow its forces to "defend the area, to raid through the enemy's lines, to prevent movement from south to north, and to control it in a very precise way".

While it is unknown whether the Israeli government intends to occupy this area on a long-term basis, the scale of demolition and destruction is significant.

Any permanent presence is likely to be controversial among Israel's international allies.

In January, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded to reports of a proposed buffer zone along the Gaza Strip's borders by saying: "We've been very clear about opposing any permanent change to Gaza's territory configuration."

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