Jerusalem (AFP) – Palestinians fled in a mass exodus from the northern Gaza Strip on Friday after the Israeli army asked about a million people to evacuate towards the southern part of the besieged enclave, an unprecedented move before. A ground invasion is expected Against the ruling Hamas movement.
The United Nations warned that asking nearly half of Gaza’s population to flee en masse would be disastrous, and urged Israel to back off. Families poured into cars, trucks and donkey carts laden with blankets and belongings on a main road outside Gaza City, the largest city, with Air strikes continued to hit the area.
The Hamas media office said that warplanes bombed cars fleeing south, killing more than 70 people. The Israeli army said that its forces entered Gaza in temporary raids to fight militants and search for traces of about 150 people kidnapped in Hamas operations. Brutal surprise attack About a week ago.
Hamas asked people to ignore the evacuation order, but some Palestinians hesitated to leave for fear that there was no safe place in the small area. Gaza is cut off from food, water and medical supplies and suffers from a complete power outage.
“Forget food, forget electricity, forget fuel. The only worry now is whether you will succeed, whether you will survive,” said Nibal Farsakh, spokeswoman for the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza City, with a heavy sigh.
The Gaza Ministry of Health said on Friday that about 1,800 people had been killed in the Strip – more than half of them under the age of 18, or women. Hamas attack last Saturday killed More than 1,300 IsraelisThe Israeli government said that about 1,500 Hamas fighters were killed during the fighting, most of them civilians.
The war has been going on for a week It led to escalating tensions across the region. Israel has exchanged fire in recent days with the Lebanese Hezbollah group, raising fears of a broader conflict, although the border is currently calm. Weekly Muslim prayer It brought protests Throughout the Middle East.
The Israeli raid is heading towards Gaza
The Israeli raid was the first word of forces entering Gaza since Israel launched its round-the-clock bombardment in response to the Hamas attack, in which armed fighters were killed. Hundreds in southern Israel And About 150 people were kidnapped To Gaza as hostages.
A military spokesman said that after Israeli ground forces carried out their raids in Gaza on Friday, they then left. These movements do not appear to be the beginning of an expected ground invasion. But the evacuation order was seen as another signal that an Israeli ground attack was already expected, although no such decision was announced. Israel is mobilizing its forces along the Gaza border.
Hamas said Israeli air strikes killed 13 hostages last day. She added that the dead included foreigners, but did not mention their nationalities.
Israeli military spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari denied the claim, telling Al Jazeera Arabic: “We have our own information.”
Israel urges mass evacuation of civilians in Gaza
The army urged civilians in northern Gaza to move south, which the United Nations said affects 1.1 million people. If implemented, this would mean that the entire population of the region would be crowded into roughly the southern half of the 40-kilometre (25-mile) strip.
Israel said it needed to target Hamas’ military infrastructure, much of which is buried deep underground. Another spokesman, Jonathan Conricus, said the military would make “intensive efforts to avoid harming civilians” and would allow residents to return when the war ended.
Hamas fighters operate in civilian areas where Israel has long accused them of using Palestinians as human shields. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant said that Israel wants to separate Hamas activists from the civilian population.
“So we have to separate them. So those who want to save their lives, please head south,” he said at a press conference with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
But UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it would be impossible to carry out such an evacuation without “devastating humanitarian consequences.” He called on Israel to cancel any such orders, saying they could “turn what is already a tragedy into a catastrophic situation.”
Palestinians in Gaza are grappling with where to go
The Hamas media office said that the air strikes hit cars in three places as they were heading south from Gaza City. It was not immediately clear who was the target of the air strikes or whether militants were among the passengers.
Two witnesses reported a raid on evacuated cars near the town of Deir al-Balah, south of the evacuation zone and in the area to which Israel had asked people to flee. Fayza Hamoudi said that she and her family were driving from their home in the north when the strike hit some distance down the road and two cars caught fire. A witness from another car on the road gave a similar account.
“Why should we trust them to try to keep us safe?” Hamoudi said, her voice choked. “They are patients.”
Many Palestinians in Gaza are still hesitant, not knowing whether to leave or stay.
At first, Gaza City resident Khaled Abu Sultan did not believe the evacuation order was real, and now he is unsure about evacuating his family to the south. “We don’t know if there are safe areas there,” he said. “We don’t know anything.”
Another family contacted friends and relatives in southern Gaza in search of shelter, but then changed their mind. Many expressed concern that they would not be able to return or would be gradually displaced to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
More than half of Gaza’s Palestinians are descendants of refugees who fled the 1948 war that followed Israel’s creation, when hundreds of thousands fled or were expelled from what is now Israel. For many, the mass eviction order raised fears of a second eviction. The United Nations said on Thursday that at least 423,000 people – nearly one in five Gazans – were forced to leave their homes due to Israeli air strikes.
“Where is the sense of security in Gaza? Is this what Hamas is offering us?” What has Hamas done to us? It has brought us disaster,” said resident Tariq Marish, standing beside the street as cars passed by, using the same Arabic word for “nakba” used in the 1948 exodus.
The Gaza Ministry of Health said it was impossible to evacuate many wounded from already struggling hospitals High numbers of dead and wounded. Its spokesman, Ashraf Al-Qudra, said: “We cannot evacuate hospitals and leave the wounded and sick to die.”
Farsakh, from the Palestinian Red Crescent, said that some paramedics refuse to leave and abandon the patients, and call their colleagues to bid them farewell.
“What will happen to our patients?” she asked. “We have wounded people, we have elderly people, we have children in hospitals.”
The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, also said it would not evacuate its schools, where hundreds of thousands have taken refuge. But it moved its headquarters to southern Gaza, according to its spokeswoman, Juliette Touma.
Israel says that responsibility in Gaza lies with Hamas
When asked by reporters whether the army would protect hospitals, UN shelters and other civilian sites, Hagari, the IDF spokesman, warned: “It is a war zone.”
Hajri added: “If Hamas prevents residents from evacuating, the responsibility falls on them.” The United Nations said the evacuation order it received gave the Palestinians 24 hours to move, but the military told the AP there was no official deadline.
Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council and a former UN humanitarian chief, said the evacuation call was a “relocation order.” Under humanitarian law, it is called forcible transfer of population, which is a war crime.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to “crush” Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007.
still A ground attack on the poor and densely populated Gaza Strip This is likely to result in higher casualties on both sides in brutal house-to-house fighting.
Al-Sharafa reported from Gaza City and the Gaza Strip and Lederer reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Joseph Krause in Jerusalem, Samia Kullab in Baghdad, Sami Magdy in Cairo, and Karim Chehayeb in Beirut contributed to this report.
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