Israel-Hamas war: Israel orders evacuation of 1.1m people from northern Gaza ahead of likely ground offensive
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At least 1.1million people have been ordered to evacuate their homes in northern Gaza by Israel as the country looks more and more likely to launch a ground offensive in the Palestinian territory.
A United Nations (UN) spokesman confirmed the order, which will include the evacuation of Gaza City, home to hundreds of thousands of people. The Israeli government has given those who reside within the territory, which is only 25 miles long, 24 hours to evacuate. However, with Israel completely sealing off the border between Gaza and the country following the surprise attack by Hamas last weekend, the only place for those told to flee to go is to southern Gaza.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric called the order "impossible" to carry out. He said: "We believe it is impossible for such a step to occur without devastating humanitarian consequences." Mr Dujarric added that “the UN strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded, avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation."
Hamas, the militant group which launched the attack that resulted in an escalation of violence, told those under the Israeli order to stay in their homes. The Hamas Authority for Refugee Affairs said that residents in the northern areas of Gaza should “remain steadfast in your homes and to stand firm in the face of this disgusting psychological war waged by the occupation”.
The Israeli military has not confirmed whether or not a ground offensive is due to be launched, but a spokesperson said that it would operate "significant force" against Gaza in the coming days as retaliation attacks continue. Spokesman Jonathan Conricus said that Israeli forces “will make extensive efforts to avoid harming civilians”, adding: “Out of an understanding that there are civilians here who are not our enemy and we do not want to target them, we are asking them to evacuate.”
The evacuation order comes after Israeli cut supply lines to fuel, food and electricity to Gaza, with this having a huge effect on the population so far. Gaza's only power plant was forced to shut down due to a lack of power, while the mortuary at Gaza's largest hospital overflowed with bodies. Since the beginning of the Hamas attack on Saturday 7 October, a combined total of 2,800 people have died on both sides of the conflict.
Fears that over one million people would not be able to be evacuated to another area of the 25 mile-long Gaza Strip within the timeframe were echoed by Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the humanitarian organisation Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza City. She said: “Forget about food, forget about electricity, forget about fuel. The only concern now is just if … you’re going to live.”
Ms Farsakh added: “What will happen to our patients? We have wounded, we have elderly, we have children who are in hospitals.”