Israeli authorities order one million Palestinians to leave northern Gaza as a ground assault approaches

Image depicting a news headline related to the Gaza conflict, with text summarizing the Israeli evacuation order, concerns about civilian safety, and Egypt's preparations for potential refugees

A mass migration commenced among Palestinian residents of northern Gaza on Friday, prompted by a directive from the Israeli military. This unprecedented directive called for the evacuation of approximately one million people to the southern region of the besieged territory, foreshadowing an imminent ground invasion against the ruling Hamas militant group.

The United Nations issued a grave warning concerning the large-scale exodus of nearly half of Gaza’s population and urgently implored Israel to rescind the order. Families, their vehicles laden with blankets and personal belongings, moved in a steady procession along a major thoroughfare departing from Gaza City, the largest city in the area.

On Friday, Israel launched a series of intense airstrikes on neighborhoods in southern Gaza and acknowledged that ground forces had conducted limited incursions into the territory. These operations were aimed at combating militants, searching for weapons, and uncovering evidence related to missing hostages.

Hamas, responsible for a shocking and brutal assault on Israel a week ago and subsequent firing of thousands of rockets, called upon the populace to remain in their homes, characterizing the evacuation order as “psychological warfare” intended to undermine their solidarity.

Many individuals hesitated to leave their homes, as they perceived no place in the small territory to be genuinely safe amidst the continuous Israeli aerial bombardment. Gaza remained cut off from essential supplies, including food, water, and medical provisions, enduring a near-complete blackout of power.

Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza City, tearfully declared, “Forget about food, forget about electricity, forget about fuel. The only concern now is whether you’ll survive, if you’ll endure.”

The Gaza Health Ministry reported on Friday that approximately 1,800 people had lost their lives in the territory. Shockingly, over half of the casualties were under the age of 18 or were female. In the conflict initiated by Hamas the previous Saturday, more than 1,300 Israelis, primarily civilians, perished, while around 1,500 Hamas militants were killed, as reported by the Israeli government.

Since Hamas attacks, Gaza has been relentlessly pounded

In the course of the week, the Islamic faithful’s congregational prayers led to significant demonstrations throughout the Middle Eastern region, provoking heightened tensions within the venerable precincts of Jerusalem’s Old City. The endowment responsible for overseeing a particularly contentious sacred locale within the city, namely the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, disclosed that the Israeli authorities had imposed restrictions, barring entry to all Palestinian males below the age of fifty.

Israel has relentlessly bombarded the Gaza Strip ceaselessly since the unprovoked aggression orchestrated by Hamas. During this attack, their combatants perpetrated the massacre of hundreds within southern Israel and subsequently seized approximately 150 individuals, holding them captive in Gaza.

A spokesperson for the Israeli military reported that following their ground operations in Gaza on Friday, the troops promptly withdrew. These actions did not appear to mark the initiation of an anticipated ground incursion. Israel had been amassing its military forces along the Gaza border ever since the deadly foray conducted by Hamas militants last Saturday.

Hamas alleged that Israeli airstrikes, in the course of the previous day, resulted in the demise of 13 individuals among the captives. The statement specified that the deceased encompassed foreign nationals; however, their respective nationalities were not disclosed.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s spokesperson, refuted these allegations, affirming to Al-Jazeera Arabic, “We possess our independent intelligence.”

On Thursday, Israel declared its intention to block the entry of any provisions into Gaza unless Hamas releases the individuals held as captives.

Israel urges the mass evacuation of the citizens of Gaza

The military issued a directive to residents in the northern region of Gaza, urging them to relocate southward—an order that the United Nations reported would impact around 1.1 million people. If implemented, this would entail the entire population of the territory being concentrated into the southern half of the 40-kilometer (25-mile) long strip.

Israel asserted the necessity to target the subterranean military infrastructure of Hamas, which is predominantly concealed deep beneath the ground. Another spokesperson, Jonathan Conricus, assured that the military would undertake extensive measures to prevent harm to civilians, further promising that residents could return when the conflict concludes.

Hamas combatants frequently operate within civilian areas, a practice Israel has long accused them of, contending that they employ Palestinians as human shields.

“The guile of these insurgents is their proximity to the civilian populace,” emphasized Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant during a press briefing alongside U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “Therefore, a clear separation is imperative. To those seeking to preserve their lives, we beseech you to relocate southward.”


Numerous Palestinians in Gaza find themselves grappling with uncertainty, torn between the decision to stay or evacuate.

Khaled Abu Sultan, a resident of Gaza City, initially doubted the authenticity of the evacuation order and now remains undecided about relocating his family to the south. He expressed his concerns, stating, “We are unsure about the existence of safe areas there. We are in the dark about everything.”

In another case, a family reached out to friends and relatives in southern Gaza in search of refuge but subsequently reversed their decision. Many harbor worries about their ability to return or the possibility of being gradually displaced towards Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

It is essential to acknowledge that over half of Gaza’s population traces its roots back to refugees from the 1948 conflict surrounding the establishment of Israel, during which hundreds of thousands were either forced to flee or expelled from what is now Israel. For many, the mass evacuation directive has resurrected the haunting specter of a second expulsion. Already, the United Nations reported that a staggering 423,000 individuals, nearly one in every five Gazans, have been displaced from their homes due to Israeli airstrikes.

Amid this turmoil, one resident named Tarek Mraish questioned the prevailing sense of security in Gaza, lamenting, “Is this the offering of security that Hamas provides us? What has Hamas brought upon us? It has led us to a catastrophe,” using the same Arabic term “nakba” that signifies the 1948 displacement.


When questioned by reporters about whether the military would ensure the protection of hospitals, U.N. shelters, and other civilian sites, Israeli military spokesperson Hagari issued a stark warning, asserting, “It’s a war zone.”

Hagari went on to emphasize, “If Hamas obstructs the residents’ evacuation, the responsibility for their safety rests with them.” Although the U.N. had indicated that the evacuation order they received allowed Palestinians 24 hours to relocate, the military informed the AP that there was no formal deadline in place.

Clive Baldwin, a senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch based in New York, raised concerns, stating, “Instructing a million people in Gaza to evacuate, when there is no genuinely secure destination, is not an effective precaution.”

He further underscored the dire circumstances, noting, “The roads are reduced to rubble, fuel is in short supply, and the primary hospital is situated within the evacuation zone. World leaders should raise their voices now, before it becomes too late.”

Image depicting a news headline related to the Gaza conflict, with text summarizing the Israeli evacuation order, concerns about civilian safety, and Egypt's preparations for potential refugees

Egypt has expressed alarm over the prospect of tens of thousands of Palestinians seeking refuge in its Sinai Peninsula. To avert any potential breach, Egypt has deployed thousands of security personnel along the border, as reported by a senior Egyptian security official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to a lack of authorization to brief reporters. Simultaneously, Egypt is actively engaged in negotiations to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza. The Rafah crossing, which is not under Israeli control, has been closed due to ongoing airstrikes.

The issuance of the evacuation order was perceived as a further indication of an impending Israeli ground offensive, even though no such decision has been formally announced.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to “crush” Hamas, the governing authority in Gaza since 2007. His government is facing significant public pressure to bring about the downfall of the group rather than maintaining the status quo of containment in Gaza, as it has for years.


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