Israel calls for Gaza City to evacuate, affecting hundreds of thousands

Date:

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military issued a sweeping directive for all Palestinians to leave Gaza City on Wednesday, calling the area a “dangerous combat zone” as it ramped up operations in the enclave’s largest urban center.

The Israel Defense Forces dropped leaflets over the city — the largest in the Gaza Strip — urging civilians to flee south along two designated routes. The warning, which the military characterized as an “evacuation recommendation,” came just days after the IDF announced a new offensive in the region, causing fear and panic among the hundreds of thousands of people still living in northern Gaza, including Gaza City, according to United Nations estimates.

“Israel’s instruction for people to leave Gaza city will only fuel mass suffering for Palestinian families,” the U.N. humanitarian affairs office said in a statement Wednesday.

The World Food Program also warned that the “unpredictable and volatile situation” in Gaza City was limiting its operations, just weeks after the world’s leading body on food crises said a high risk of famine persists across the territory.

The vast majority of Gaza’s roughly 2.3 million people are already displaced, many of them multiple times, and the areas Israel has marked as “safe zones” are already desperately overcrowded, leaving little room for new arrivals. The leaflets released over Gaza on Wednesday told residents that they could move “quickly and without inspection” this time, signaling they would not be required to pass through the Netzarim checkpoint that divides the enclave and where the IDF has frequently detained Palestinian men.

GET CAUGHT UP

Stories to keep you informed

“We categorically refuse to leave our house,” 39-year-old Anhar Sakik, a resident of Gaza City, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Sakik said she is staying in a family home near the headquarters of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) with 35 relatives. Israel said on Monday that intelligence indicated the presence of Hamas infrastructure, operatives and weapons at the agency’s headquarters, which was evacuated in October.

“We are surrounded under a barrage of artillery shells,” Sakik said. But, she added, “we experienced displacement and we know the extent of the suffering displaced people have experienced and are still experiencing in the south. We will not leave at all because we don’t know where is safe.”

The Hamas-run Interior Ministry issued a statement Wednesday advising people to ignore the evacuation order and instead “move to a place close to your area of residence” if in danger. Local journalists reported Wednesday afternoon that they saw only a trickle of families fleeing along the route south.

“People realize that death will follow them everywhere,” Mahmoud Basal, a spokesman for Gaza’s civil defense force, said by phone.

The IDF originally withdrew from the city in January but has since returned for more targeted raids, as Hamas fighters have regrouped in areas with fewer Israeli troops present.

The group’s military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, released a video on social media Wednesday showing its fighters detonating explosives under Israeli bulldozers and firing rockets at soldiers in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said Wednesday on X, formerly Twitter, that its emergency services could not reach the sick and wounded.

“Operation room teams are receiving dozens of humanitarian distress calls from Gaza City, but our ambulance teams are unable to reach them due to the danger of the targeted areas and the intensity of the bombardment,” it said in the statement.

Sakik said her elderly mother is ill and her children “live in a state of fear.”

Her 8-year-old son, Zaid, won’t leave her side, she said, adding, “He tells me that at least if we are killed, I will be in your arms.”

Around 6:30 p.m. local time, Sakik sent a message saying there was heavy bombardment nearby — then communication was cut.

Here’s what else to know

Israel sent a delegation to Doha on Wednesday to participate in cease-fire talks, according to an Israeli official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive negotiations.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel has “eliminated or injured” 60 percent of Hamas’s fighting force. He said in remarks to the Knesset that “the vast majority” of battalions have been “dismantled.”

The U.S. reversed a suspension on the shipment of 1,700 500-pound bombs to Israel, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter. The shipment had been held up since May, when the U.S. expressed concern about civilian casualties in Gaza.

A husband and wife were identified as the two people killed in a Hezbollah rocket attack Tuesday on the Golan Heights. The Golan Regional Council said Wednesday that Noa and Nir Baranes, parents of three children, were killed in the attack while they were heading home. “The entire Golan community is shocked, grieving and mourning,” it said.

The IDF said it was “looking into reports that civilians were harmed” in an attack near a school in eastern Khan Younis. The Gaza Health Ministry said at least 25 people were killed and 53 were injured in the strike; the school had been sheltering displaced people. The IDF said it used “precise munition” to strike a “terrorist from Hamas’s military wing.”

The IDF also said it had concluded a two-week operation in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. The Israeli military issued evacuation orders for people in the area on June 27. On Wednesday, as the military said it had destroyed eight tunnels and eliminated over 150 militants.

At least 38,295 people have been killed and 88,241 injured in Gaza since the war started, the Gaza Health Ministry said Wednesday. It does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 325 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operations in Gaza.

Lior Soroka in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.

Share post:

Popular

More like this
Related

Why is Tyra Banks serving ice cream in D.C.? Here’s the scoop.

For her decades-long career strutting runways and hosting “America’s...

Global Microsoft outage live updates: DC-area hospitals, flights and courts affected

What to KnowMicrosoft products worldwide went offline overnight Friday...

DE Dorance Armstrong ‘Less Than Ideal’ as Washington Commanders No. 1 EDGE Rusher

Part of the Washington Commanders offseason overhaul was completely...