Israel orders evacuation of all Palestinians from Gaza City

Israel orders evacuation of all Palestinians from Gaza City

The Israeli military has told all Palestinians to leave Gaza City and head southward as it escalates its offensive across the northern, southern, and central regions of the territory.

Israel informed people in Gaza of the evacuation order by dropping leaflets urging “all those in Gaza City” to take two “safe routes” south to the area around the central town of Deir al-Balah. Gaza City, it said, will “remain a dangerous combat zone.”

The military had ordered Palestinians to evacuate from eastern and central parts of the city earlier this week, but many stayed put after concluding there is nowhere else to seek refuge in the Gaza Strip.

The intensified military action comes as US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators met with Israeli officials in the Qatari capital, Doha, to resume ceasefire talks with Gaza’s Hamas militant group in exchange for the release of dozens of Israeli hostages it is holding.

Israel claims it is pursuing Hamas fighters that are regrouping in various parts of Gaza nine months into the war. But heavy strikes along the length of the territory could also be aimed at putting more pressure on Hamas during these talks.

The military said it wrapped up an operation launched late last month in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Shijaiyah, during which dozens of militants were killed and eight underground tunnels destroyed.

Bombing intensifies

Israeli troops have already pushed into parts of Gaza City in recent days, causing thousands of Palestinians to flee from increased shelling and airstrikes.

A strike on Wednesday hit four houses in Deir al-Balah and the nearby Nuseirat refugee camp, killing 20 Palestinians.

The house hit in Deir al-Balah was inside the 'humanitarian safe zone' where Israel has told Palestinians to flee for refuge.

Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to a hospital in Khan Younis.
Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to a hospital in Khan Younis. - Jehad Alshrafi/Copyright 2023, The AP. All rights reserved

Among the dead were six children and three women, according to officials at al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, where the casualties were taken.

The overnight bombardment came hours after Israeli warplanes struck the entrance of a school sheltering displaced families outside the southern city of Khan Younis.

The toll from the strike rose to 31 people killed, including eight children, and more than 50 wounded, according to officials at the nearby Nasser Hospital.

Aid struggles to cross the border

The United Nations has said very little aid is reaching Palestinians from the Kerem Shalom border crossing because of lawlessness, ongoing fighting, and the lack of effective coordination with Israeli forces in Gaza.

Israeli Colonel Elad Goren, head of the Israeli unit known as Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) which is in charge of civilian policy and logistical coordination between Israel and Gaza , said it has facilitated the entry of more than 40,000 trucks. However, the U.N. says it has only received and distributed aid from 26,000. Goren called for the U.N. to increase trucks, manpower and warehouses.

But UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the U.N. is trying its best to get to people in need, especially in central and southern Gaza, but added “you have utter lawlessness, plus you have continuing conflict.”

He said some U.N. and private sector trucks are trying to pick up aid from Kerem Shalom, but there are being 'either looted or attacked by criminal elements'.