Israel’s defence forces have announced a six-hour window for Palestinians to continue evacuating south along certain highways inside of Gaza, and thousands are leaving, or have already left their homes, although Hamas is telling them not to do son.
“Follow our instructions — move south of Wadi Gaza,” said IDF spokesperson Richard Hecht during a Saturday press briefing, suggesting residents who remain north of that geographic location may be faced with a possible Israeli offensive.
IDF officials also told the residents in northern regions they could continue to travel south on the territory’s main highways Saturday “without any harm” until 4 p.m.
However, BBC has reported that at least 12 people were killed when a bomb hit a flatbed truck heading south on one of the approved routes with the truck bed full of passengers, including children.
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed early Friday that it had notified residents in Gaza City to leave for “their own safety and protection” after it vowed to annihilate Hamas after its fighters stormed through towns and villages in southern Israel last week, killing 1,300 Israelis, mainly civilians, and making off with scores of hostages.
“You will be able to return to Gaza City only when another announcement permitting it is made,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said in a live-streamed briefing on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Hamas has called for everyone to “remain steadfast in your homes and to stand firm in the face of this disgusting psychological war waged by the occupation,” according to reports by The Associated Press.
Israeli infantry made their first raids into the Gaza Strip on Friday, according to a Reuters report citing an Israeli military spokesperson who said troops backed by tanks mounted raids to attack Palestinian rocket crews inside of Gaza and sought information about the location of hostages.
A Saturday report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the bodies of several Israelis were retrieved by Israeli military in those raids, during which troops allegedly destroyed some “terrorist infrastructure and squads” and found items that might lead to more missing Israelis. Israel’s military said early Saturday that it has confirmed that more than 120 civilians are being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas.
Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour told reporters Friday that Israel’s evacuation order amounts to “ethnic cleansing” of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have nowhere to flee.
“We don’t know what’s happening at this moment in the northern part of Gaza where the Israeli occupying forces told people to evacuate — people don’t know where to go,” Mansour told reporters. “There is no safe place in the Gaza Strip.”
In Tel Aviv, Israeli army spokesperson Avichay Adraee told Alhurra, an Arabic language satellite TV sister organization of the Voice of America, “In every sense of the word, we are escalating our raids and attacks on Hamas’ hideouts in the Gaza Strip, and this is what is actually happening, after we targeted geographical areas that Hamas exploited to establish its hideouts there, such as Al-Rimal neighborhood, Beit Hanoun, and so on.
“We are now warning the residents of Gaza City and calling on them to leave those areas because they are being used by Hamas to lead and direct military operations against Israel,” Adraee said. “Therefore, as we said and announced clearly, Israel will intensify its strikes in this region.”
Israeli airstrikes have killed 70 and wounded 200 people evacuating northern Gaza, according to Gaza’s Interior Ministry.
No electricity, water, food
An airplane with World Health Organization medical supplies bound for Gaza landed in Egypt early Saturday, near the Rafah crossing. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the supplies will be deployed as soon as humanitarian access through the crossing is granted.
Tedros urged Israel on X, formerly known as Twitter, to reconsider its decision to evacuate 1.1 million people. “It will be a human tragedy,” he said.
Tedros’ comment repeated similar warnings made Friday by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who criticized Israeli forces over the evacuation timeframe.
“Moving more than 1 million people across a densely populated war zone to a place with no food, water or accommodation, when the entire territory is under siege, is extremely dangerous,” he told reporters.
Israel put Gaza under a “complete siege” Monday in response to Saturday’s deadly Hamas attacks, which killed more than 1,300 Israelis.
Palestinians are currently without electricity, water and fuel, making a mass evacuation even more risky and complex. Israeli strikes have killed about 1,800 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
“This is chaos, no one understands what to do,” Inas Hamdan, an officer at the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza City, told the AP, adding that U.N. staff are evacuating northern Gaza.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East said it has relocated its central operations center and its international staff of about 300 to southern Gaza to continue its humanitarian work. The agency has about 13,000 staff in Gaza, the overwhelming majority of whom are Palestinian.
“They are U.N. facilities. They must be protected … and must never come under attack in accordance with international humanitarian law,” the U.N. group said in a statement.
Israel has positioned some 300,000 reservists near the border with Gaza but has said no decision has been made on moving forward with an offensive. In the meantime, it continues heavy bombardment of Gaza, vowing there will be no letup until Hamas releases the more than 120 confirmed hostages.
Sources: VOA, BBC, news agencies.