Israel has dropped flyers over northern Gaza ordering more than one million people to ‘evacuate your homes immediately’ and flee south ahead of a feared Israeliground offensive aimed at eradicating the Hamas terrorist group.
The order, first issued this morning, has sparked widespread panic among civilians already struggling under Israeli airstrikes and a blockade, while the UN called such an evacuation an ‘impossible’, saying it would turn a tragedy into calamity.
Palestine‘s health minister also warned that Gaza is facing a humanitarian and health catastrophe and urged all countries and human rights groups to help with the immediate entry of medical and emergency aid to the enclave.
Meanwhile, Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit branded the Israeli order a ‘forced transfer’ that he said constitutes a ‘crime‘, while the secretary general of the pan-Arab body, in a letter sent to UN chief Antonio Guterres, accused Israel of carrying out ‘an atrocious act of revenge… punishing helpless civilians in Gaza’.
It comes as Hamas claimed at least 13 Israeli and foreign hostages held in northern Gaza have been killed in Israeli air strikes in the past 24 hours, and before Hamas operatives fired hundreds of rockets towards Israel around midday on Friday.
‘Thirteen prisoners… including foreigners’ were killed in five locations targeted by Israeli fighter jets, Hamas’s armed wing said Friday.
Israel’s military sent one evacuation order directly on Friday morning, telling the 1.1 million people living north of an area called Wadi Gaza to move south. This would mean the entire population of Gaza City and its surroundings fleeing their homes.
According to translations of the IDF flyers online, the army told residents that ‘terrorist organisations have started the war against the State of Israel.’
As a result, it said ‘Gaza City has become a battlefield’ and told residents they had to evacuate ‘Punik immediately and go to the south of the Gaza Valley.’
It also issued a stark warning to Palestinians not to try and cross into Israel.
#For your security and safety: You should not return to Piona until further notice by the Israel Defense Army,’ the flyers said. ‘Generally and well-known shelters in Gaza City must be evacuated. It is forbidden to approach the security wall, and everyone who is approaching exposes himself to death.’
A small map was also printed on the bottom of the flyer, with arrows pointing from the north of Gaza to the south, showing the 1.1 million Palestinians which way to flee.
The UN says it is impossible to move that many people without devastating humanitarian consequences, and has urged Israel to rescind the order.
The 2.3 million people living in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip are densely packed into a sliver of land that is just 25 miles long and 7 miles wide which is already largely without power and where hospitals are overwhelmed.
Israel has killed more than 1,530 people in Gaza with airstrikes and cut off food, water and electricity since Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,300 in Israel.
Israel’s directive, which comes seven days after Hamas attacked Israel from Gaza, charged that Hamas terrorists were hiding in tunnels under the city.
Meanwhile, a Hamas official called the evacuation order ‘fake propaganda’, urged Palestinians to stay in their homes and not to ‘fall for it’.