Israel orders 1.1 million Palestinians to evacuate northern Gaza

UN says such a movement of people would create a humanitarian catastrophe, as Gazans fear imminent Israeli ground offensive

An explosion from an air strike on Gaza city, amid the ongoing Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian enclave. AFP
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Israel called on all residents of Gaza city – around 1.1 million people – to leave their homes and move to the south of the densely populated enclave on Friday.

“Gaza city is an area where military activity takes place. This evacuation is for your personal safety,” Israeli military spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The military “will continue to operate significantly in Gaza city in the coming days, and wishes to avoid harming civilians”, he said.

He called on the Gazans not to approach the fence area with Israel, saying that the residents will be able to return to Gaza city only after a notification confirming this.

This follows an announcement from the UN on Friday morning saying that more than one million Palestinians in Gaza have been ordered to move, adding that their own staff, who are trying to do vital humanitarian work, would have to leave.

UN officials called on Israel to rescind this order, as they fear this could create a humanitarian catastrophe.

“The United Nations considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation.”

The UN agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA, said on Friday that it has relocated its central operations centre and international staff to a location in the south to continue its humanitarian operations.

“UNRWA urges the Israeli Authorities to protect all civilians in UNRWA shelters including schools. They are UN facilities,” the agency said.

“They must be protected at all times and must never come under attack in accordance with international humanitarian law.”

Palestinians fear the announcement could be a precursor to an Israeli ground offensive on the besieged enclave of 2.3 million people.

Israel has massed tanks and around 300,000 troops near the Gaza border and has been pounding it with bombardments since a Hamas militant attack in Israel last Saturday.

More than 1,500 people in Gaza have been killed in six days of Israeli strikes, while Saturday's Hamas attack on Israeli settlements killed about 1,300 people. The majority of dead on both sides were civilians.

Health authorities in Gaza say hospitals are running out of fuel for generators, and are overwhelmed trying to treat about 6,000 wounded.

Mr Dujarric said the order by the Israeli military also applied to all UN staff and those sheltered in UN facilities, including schools, health centres and clinics.

A Hamas official said Gaza's relocation warning is “fake propaganda”, and urged citizens “not to fall for it”.

Updated: October 13, 2023, 7:41 AM