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Israeli military tells all residents of Gaza City to evacuate

Israeli military tells all residents of Gaza City to evacuate

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Louise Thomas

The Israeli military has ordered all Palestinians in Gaza City to leave the besieged territory as heavy bombardment continued to jolt the region ahead of ceasefire talks.

The army on Wednesday dropped thousands of leaflets over the territory ordering “everyone in Gaza City”, which was home to more than half a million people before the war, to leave for the south. It set out escape routes and warned that the city would “remain a dangerous combat zone”.

Israel claimed the aim behind a revived offensive in Gaza was to seek out Hamas fighters who were allegedly regrouping in parts of the Strip. Wednesday’s warning follows three partial evacuation orders from Israel as the troops along with tanks stormed into the city this week.

Israel’s war in Gaza has already displaced most of the Strip’s 2.3 million people, with “nowhere safe” for them to escape.

A Palestinian man leads a donkey cart past the destroyed buildings and rubble after the Israeli military withdrew from the Shujaiya neighbourhood, east of Gaza City
A Palestinian man leads a donkey cart past the destroyed buildings and rubble after the Israeli military withdrew from the Shujaiya neighbourhood, east of Gaza City (AFP via Getty Images)

The heavy strikes throughout Gaza in recent days, which have killed dozens of people, could be aimed at increasing pressure on Hamas during negotiations for a ceasefire, according to experts. The US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators are meeting with Israeli officials in Qatar for talks trying to push through a deal.

A White House national security spokesperson said the US was “cautiously optimistic that things are moving in a good direction”. “There are still gaps remaining between the two sides. We believe those gaps can be narrowed,” John Kirby told CNN.

Meanwhile, there appears to be no mass exodus southwards to central Gaza as people feared they could be shot or detained.

Maha Mahfouz, a mother of two, said she and five other families will head to Jabaliya refugee camp, which is north of Gaza City. “We will stay in the north to be close to our homes,” she told the Associated Press.

The main UN agency supporting Palestinians in Gaza has said around 200,000 Palestinians remain in the north of the territory.

A Palestinian man looks at a destroyed Israeli military vehicle seen near the destroyed buildings and rubble
A Palestinian man looks at a destroyed Israeli military vehicle seen near the destroyed buildings and rubble (AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli tanks deepened their incursion into some districts including Shejaia, Sabra and Tel Al-Hawa, where residents reported the previous day some of the most fierce fighting since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

Footage circulated on social media on Tuesday showed families packed onto donkey carts and in the backs of trucks piled with mattresses and other belongings racing through the city’s streets to flee areas under Israeli evacuation orders.

“Gaza City is being wiped out, this is what is happening. Israel is forcing us to leave homes under fire,” Um Tamer, a mother of seven, told Reuters via a chat app.

Multiple Israeli airstrikes on Wednesday killed 20 Palestinians in central Gaza, including six children and three women, some of them inside a purported “safe zone” declared by the Israeli military.

Israel’s war in Gaza in retaliation against the 7 October Hamas attack has killed more than 38,000 Palestinians. The war began after Hamas, in a surprise attack, stormed into southern Israel and killed some 1,200 people – mostly civilians – and abducted about 250 others.

Israeli restrictions, fighting and the breakdown of law and order have limited humanitarian aid efforts, causing widespread hunger and sparking fears of famine. The UN has ordered Israel to take steps to protect Palestinians as it examines genocide allegations against Israel’s top politicians. Israel, however, has denied charges.


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