Get out of Gaza City, Israel’s military tells Palestinians

Palestinians flee to safer areas in Gaza City after Israeli air strikes on Friday. Israel has called for the immediate relocation of 1.1 million people in Gaza amid its massive bombardment in retaliation for Hamas's attacks, with the United Nations warning of 'devastating' consequences. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli Military Instructs Mass Exodus From Gaza City Ahead of Anticipated Ground Invasion

In a move triggering widespread panic and international outcry, Israel’s military instructed nearly one million Palestinians in Gaza to evacuate the north, potentially setting the stage for a ground invasion targeting the ruling Hamas militant group.

Unprecedented Evacuation Notice

The evacuation directive, unprecedented in its scale, encompasses Gaza City — a home for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. As residents and aid workers grappled with Israeli airstrikes and a comprehensive blockade, an additional challenge emerged: a territory-wide power outage. Adding to the confusion, Gaza’s skies were dotted with leaflets, the contents of which remain unknown.

Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza City, expressed the dire situation, stating, “Forget about food, forget about electricity, forget about fuel. The only concern now is just if you’ll make it, if you’re going to live,” her voice trembling with emotion.

A parade for the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s militant arm, is held in Gaza. Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Hamas Rejects the Order

Hamas labeled the evacuation order as a mere ploy, urging the populace to stay put. The UN, on the other hand, forewarned that such mass evacuations could lead to disastrous outcomes.

The Conflict Escalates

Since the weekend attack where Hamas combatants launched a surprising and brutal assault on Israel, leading to the massacre of hundreds, including children, the Israeli forces have been constantly bombarding Gaza. The retaliations from both sides have resulted in substantial loss of life.

Hamas claims that 13 of the hostages, including foreigners, fell victim to Israeli airstrikes in the past day. Israel has not yet responded to these allegations.

Warnings and Directives

The Israeli military, in a stern directive on Friday morning, asked Gaza City inhabitants to move south. The key reason cited was the targeting of Hamas’s deeply entrenched military apparatus. Highlighting the grave situation, the military stressed, “Civilians of Gaza City, evacuate south for your own safety and the safety of your families and distance yourself from Hamas terrorists who are using you as human shields.”

The UN reported a separate mandate, stipulating all civilians in northern Gaza to relocate south within 24 hours.

UN Raises Alarm

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric expressed grave concerns about the evacuation order, emphasizing the humanitarian catastrophe it could invoke. In a sharp retort, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, termed the UN’s reaction as “shameful.”

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken (right) arriving in Amman, Jordan, on Thursday night. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

U.S. Backing Israel

Amid the escalating tension, top U.S. officials, including Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, visited Israel, signaling significant support. Austin assured, “The U.S. Department of Defence stands fully ready to deploy additional assets if necessary.”

Ground Invasion Implications

Analysts predict that a ground assault on the densely populated Gaza could result in escalated casualties, given the intense urban warfare that would ensue.

Regional and Global Responses

Jordan’s King Abdullah cautioned Israel against any forced displacement of Palestinians. Meanwhile, Egypt, a long-time peace broker in the region, has kept its Rafah crossing with Gaza shut due to the ongoing airstrikes.

Protests have erupted across the Middle East and beyond, including cities like Baghdad, Amman, and Dhaka, in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Gaza Health Crisis Deepens Amid Blockade: Hospitals Running Out of Medical Supplies
A Palestinian child injured in Israeli strikes is brought to a hospital in Gaza City on Wednesday. Health officials said medical supplies at seven major hospitals in the Gaza Strip have run out and hospitals there are now running beyond their capacity. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

A Humanitarian Crisis

As per the latest UN reports, Israeli airstrikes have already displaced around 423,000 Gazans. The prevailing chaos and uncertainty have been aptly summarized by Inas Hamdan from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, who said, “This is chaos, no one understands what to do.”

Farsakh further highlighted the plight of medical professionals who, despite the looming threat, are reluctant to leave their patients behind in hospitals. She mentioned in a saddening way that many are reaching out to bid farewell to their colleagues.