Israeli order to evacuate Khan Younis leaves a million Gazans at risk, aid groups say

Humanitarian organisations call for a halt to violence, saying nowhere in the Gaza Strip is safe

Palestinians displaced by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip prepare bread in a UN-run camp in Khan Younis. AP
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Israel’s evacuation orders for Gazans in Khan Younis will put the lives of more than a million people in danger, aid groups said on Thursday.

Residents of several neighbourhoods in the southern city of Khan Younis were on Wednesday urged to leave their homes and head to shelters as Israel continued its heavy bombardment of the enclave.

“The evacuation orders in Gaza are concerning and further endanger the lives of over a million people,” Jessica Moussan, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told The National.

“These orders lack adequate provisions for basic necessities such as shelter, food, water and medical care. This significantly increases the risk to civilians,” Ms Moussan said.

More than 1.5 million people have been internally displaced in Gaza, with most having fled to the south, where food, water and electricity are becoming increasingly scarce.

The order, made by leaflets, comes after Israeli forces began searching Al Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, where they claim Hamas militants operate.

Khan Younis houses hundreds of thousands of people who followed previous evacuation orders to head south and are now crowded into family homes and UN-run shelters.

The leaflets say: "To the residents of the eastern neighbourhoods of Khan Younis, Al Qarara, Khuzaa, Bani Suheila, and Abasan, for your safety, you must evacuate your homes immediately and head to the known shelters."

'Nowhere is safe'

The order is "simply unrealistic, let alone unlawful", said Ahmed Bayram, spokesman for the Norwegian Refugee Council, an independent humanitarian organisation that helps those forced to flee.

"Our teams on the ground, many of them displaced in Khan Younis, tell us they and their extended families have nowhere to go," he told The National.

"Israel, even after its original orders to move northern residents to the south, has persistently bombed areas it claimed to be safe.

"These are all places where people thought they would be safe. It turns out they were just as dangerous.

"The tragedy is repeating itself here."

Ms Moussan said the ICRC has been urging all sides to the conflict that evacuations must be safe, effective and humane.

"Today, civilians in Gaza face the stark reality of being trapped in a conflict zone with very limited humanitarian aid and safe spaces," she said.

"Nowhere in Gaza is safe."

According to the most recent UN data, up to 300,000 Gazans have fled south of the Wadi Gaza, since November 5, mainly trying to escape heavy fighting in Gaza city and other densely populated areas. Other towns in the north of the enclave that have been heavily bombarded include Beit Lahia and Jabalia refugee camp.

As of November 15, about 813,000 people were sheltering in facilities run by UNWRA, the agency reported. On Wednesday alone, the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which is monitoring the flow of refugees, said 8,000 people had fled on the Salahadin Road.

"In the north, hundreds of thousands of people who are unwilling or unable to move to the south remain amid intense hostilities," OCHA warned on Thursday. "They are struggling to secure the minimum amount of water and food for survival."

Updated: November 16, 2023, 11:35 AM