Israel military tells Gaza City residents to leave

42

The Israeli military has instructed all residents of Gaza City to evacuate south to the central Gaza Strip amid an intensified offensive.

Aircraft dropped leaflets directing “everyone in Gaza City” to leave the “dangerous combat zone” via designated safe routes, specifically two roads leading to shelters in Deir al-Balah and al-Zawaida.

The UN has expressed deep concern about these evacuation orders.

Over the past two weeks, Israeli forces have issued evacuation orders and re-entered several areas of Gaza City, targeting regions where they believe Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have regrouped since the beginning of the year.

As the fighting continues, indirect negotiations for a potential ceasefire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas are set to resume in Qatar. The talks will include the intelligence chiefs of Egypt, the US, and Israel.

It is estimated that over a quarter-of-a-million people are still living in Gaza City, with some observed evacuating to the south. However, others have chosen not to leave.

“I will not leave Gaza. I will not make the stupid mistake that others have made. Israeli missiles do not differentiate between north and south,” Gaza resident Ibrahim al-Barbari, 47, told the BBC.

“If death is my fate and the fate of my children, we will die with honour and dignity in our homes,” he said.

In a statement issued earlier on Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said its troops had “conducted a counterterrorism operation” overnight against Hamas and PIJ fighters who were operating inside a headquarters of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa) in Gaza City.

The troops opened a “defined corridor to facilitate the evacuation of civilians” from the area before entering the structure and “eliminating terrorists in close-quarters combat,” the report stated.

There was no immediate comment from UNRWA.

The IDF also reported killing dozens of fighters in Gaza City’s eastern Shejaiya district and dismantling an underground tunnel route over the past day.

Speaking in the Israeli parliament on Wednesday, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant claimed that 60% of Hamas fighters had been killed or wounded since Israel’s offensive began. The BBC could not independently verify these figures.

On Tuesday, the UN Human Rights Office expressed being “appalled” by IDF orders for residents to evacuate to “areas where Israeli military operations are ongoing and where civilians continue to be killed and injured.”

It also warned that the Deir al-Balah area was already severely overcrowded with Palestinians displaced from other areas of Gaza, with limited infrastructure and access to humanitarian assistance.

The Israeli military launched its campaign in Gaza to destroy the Hamas group following an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 251 others were taken hostage.

According to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, more than 38,295 people have been killed in Gaza since then.