Israel-Palestine conflict: Thousands flee north Gaza after evacuation warning

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that nearly a week of fierce bombardment was "just the beginning"

By AFP

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

 

Palestinians with their belongings leave Gaza City as they flee from their homes following the Israeli army's warning on October 13, 2023. AFP
Palestinians with their belongings leave Gaza City as they flee from their homes following the Israeli army's warning on October 13, 2023. AFP

Published: Sat 14 Oct 2023, 8:45 AM

Thousands of Palestinians fled Saturday to southern Gaza seeking refuge after Israel warned them to evacuate before an expected ground offensive against Hamas in retaliation for the deadliest attack in Israel's history.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that nearly a week of fierce bombardment was "just the beginning" as Israel seeks to retaliate against Hamas after their fighters killed more than 1,300 a week ago.


Israeli ground forces made "localised" raids into Gaza in the past 24 hours "to cleanse the area of terrorists and weaponry" and try to find "missing persons", the army said.

Most of those killed when militant fighters burst through the heavily militarised border into Israel last Saturday were civilians, in an attack compared to 9/11 in the United States.


At least 1,900 Gazans — most of them civilians and including more than 600 children —have been killed in missile strikes on the densely populated enclave, the health ministry said.

"Where to go?" asked Umm Hossam, 29, who was among the thousands fleeing.

"How long will the strikes and death last? We have no homes left, every area of Gaza is under threat," said the 29-year-old, her face streaked with tears.

Stay up to date with the latest news. Follow KT on WhatsApp Channels.

Hamas took about 150 Israeli, foreign and dual national hostages back to Gaza in the initial attack, Israel has said.

The militant group said Friday that 13 of them had been killed in Israeli air strikes.

In Gaza, UN officials said the Israeli military, whose troops are massing at the border, had said some 1.1 million people in the north of the enclave needed to evacuate to the south "within the next 24 hours".

Israel did not confirm it had set the deadline, but later admitted it would take more time. A ground offensive would be complicated by the presence of hostages.

The United Nations described the immediate movement of nearly half of the 2.4 million in the Gaza Strip as "impossible" called for the evacuation order to be rescinded.

"Moving more than one million people across a densely populated war zone to a place with no food, water, or accommodation, when the entire territory of Gaza is under siege, is extremely dangerous - and in some cases, simply not possible," UN chief Antonio Guterres said on X, formerly Twitter.

Hospitals are struggling to cope with the dead and wounded and the health system was "at a breaking point", the World Health Organization said.

In Jordan, after a meeting with Blinken, King Abdullah II called for "humanitarian corridors" to be opened urgently.

Egypt — which runs the Rafah crossing to the south of Gaza -- faces a dilemma of accepting refugees with the possibility that Israel may never let them return, weakening Palestinian aspirations for statehood.

AFP correspondents in Gaza said the Israeli military on Friday dropped flyers warning residents to flee "immediately" south of Wadi Gaza, with a map pointing south across a line in the centre of the 40 kilometre-long (25 mile-long) territory.

The army said it "will continue to operate significantly in Gaza City and make extensive efforts to avoid harming civilians".

"Hamas terrorists are hiding in Gaza City inside tunnels underneath houses and inside buildings populated with innocent civilians."

Netanyahu has vowed to "crush" Hamas, and has likened it to the Islamic State group.

But in Geneva, the Red Cross said the unjustifiable "horrific" attacks on Israel could equally not justify "the limitless destruction of Gaza".

Hamas has said Palestinians rejected the evacuation request, yet thousands of Gazans were on the move in search of safety, carrying plastic bags of belongings, suitcases on their shoulders and children in their arms.

Even before the evacuation order, more than 423,000 people had already fled their homes in Gaza, according to the UN.

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said Israel's evacuation order is a "forced transfer" that constitutes "a crime".

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said it will be "tantamount to a second Nakba" or "catastrophe", referring to the 760,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 war that accompanied Israel's creation.

ALSO READ:



More news from World