Mass Exodus in Gaza as Israel Calls for Large-Scale Evacuation Amid Limited Raids

by Andrew Wright
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Mass Evacuation in Gaza

On Saturday, residents in northern Gaza hastily relocated after the Israeli military instructed nearly half of the region’s populace to migrate southward. This move was initiated ahead of a possible land invasion, following a comprehensive and lethal attack by Hamas on Israel one week prior.

Israeli authorities reiterated their call for approximately one million residents of Gaza to head south, using both aerial leaflets and social media announcements. Contrary to this, Hamas advised civilians to stay put. International bodies, including the United Nations and various aid organizations, warned that such a sudden mass displacement could result in considerable humanitarian distress, particularly for those unable to easily move, such as hospital patients.

Roads leading away from Gaza City were congested with families in various vehicles, from cars to donkey carts, laden with belongings. Israeli airstrikes persistently targeted the already-besieged area, where essential resources like food, water, and fuel have been severely restricted due to a comprehensive blockade by Israel. Egyptian officials have indicated that the Rafah crossing in the south would reopen later on Saturday for the first time in several days, to permit the exit of foreign nationals.

The Israeli military announced that there would be two principal pathways along which Palestinians could travel unharmed between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. local time. While it was reported that “hundreds of thousands” had already moved southward, the logistics remained complicated for those living as far as 20 kilometers away due to roads damaged by airstrikes and the scarcity of fuel.

Increasing Concerns Amid Conflict Between Israel and Hamas

Experts have raised allegations that both Hamas and Israel are engaging in war crimes in the ongoing conflict. Meanwhile, heightened security measures have been adopted in U.S. cities despite a lack of credible threats directly linked to the Israel-Hamas warfare.

Thousands sought refuge in a U.N.-administered school in Deir al-Balah, a farming community south of the evacuation area. Many were left to sleep outdoors on the ground or in chairs taken from classrooms. Howeida al-Zaaneen, a 63-year-old from the northern town of Beit Hanoun, lamented, “We slept on the ground. We lack even basic necessities like mattresses and clothes. I wish to return home, even if it’s in ruins.”

The Israeli military conveyed that its forces had made brief incursions into Gaza to engage militants and search for approximately 150 individuals, including men, women, and children, who were abducted during Hamas’ shocking assault on southern Israel on October 7.

Staggering Casualties and Diplomatic Stances

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, over 2,200 people, including 724 children and 458 women, have died in the territory. On the Israeli side, more than 1,300 civilians have been killed, along with roughly 1,500 Hamas militants, according to the Israeli government.

Egypt has increased its border security measures, erecting “temporary” blast walls on its side of the heavily guarded Rafah crossing, which had been closed for days due to the Israeli aerial bombardment.

In the occupied West Bank, 53 Palestinians have been reported killed since the onset of hostilities. The United Nations has noted an increase in attacks by Israeli settlers in the area following the initial Hamas assault.

The Humanitarian Crisis and International Response

The U.N. has stated that the Israeli call for a southern migration would affect around 1.1 million people. If fully executed, the entire population would be forced to squeeze into the southern half of the 40-kilometer Gaza Strip, even as Israeli strikes continue throughout the territory.

Egyptian authorities have reached an agreement to allow foreigners to exit Gaza via the Rafah crossing later on Saturday. Negotiations regarding the entry of aid into Gaza through the same crossing are still underway.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees mentioned that the scarcity of fuel has led to the shutting down of desalination plants, forcing people to rely on contaminated well water. Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s commissioner-general, emphasized, “If this continues, we may see severe dehydration deaths, particularly among young children.”

The Uncertain Path Ahead

Hamas stated that Israeli airstrikes had killed 70 people in vehicles moving southward from Gaza City. The Israeli military did not immediately comment on this. Witness accounts confirmed an airstrike near Deir el-Balah targeting cars on the move.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed Israel’s intent to “destroy Hamas,” while Hamas claimed that Israel’s airstrikes had killed 13 hostages, including foreign nationals. The Israeli military refuted this allegation.

As the conflict escalates, civilians in Gaza are confronted with the distressing decision of whether to stay or leave, against the backdrop of entire city blocks reduced to rubble by Israeli airstrikes. This crisis exacerbates existing fears among the Palestinian population, many of whom are descendants of refugees displaced during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.

This report includes contributions from various journalists located in Jerusalem, Baghdad, Cairo, El-Arish, Beirut, and Riyadh.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Mass Evacuation in Gaza

What prompted the mass evacuation in northern Gaza?

The Israeli military ordered nearly half the population of northern Gaza to evacuate and move south, ahead of an expected land offensive. This comes a week after a wide-ranging attack by Hamas into Israel.

How have people been evacuating from the affected areas?

Families have been leaving the northern areas of Gaza in various forms of transport such as cars, trucks, and even donkey carts, often carrying their possessions with them. Many roads have been damaged due to airstrikes, complicating the evacuation process.

What is the United Nations’ stance on the mass evacuation?

The U.N. and other aid groups have warned that a rapid exodus of this magnitude would cause untold human suffering. There are concerns about the displacement of hospital patients and the general populace, especially given the already scarce resources.

How many casualties have been reported so far?

As of the latest update, the Gaza Health Ministry reported over 2,200 people killed in the territory, including 724 children and 458 women. In Israel, more than 1,300 civilians have been killed, along with approximately 1,500 Hamas militants, according to the Israeli government.

What is the situation at the southern Rafah crossing?

Egyptian officials have stated that the southern Rafah crossing would be opened to allow foreigners to exit. The crossing has been closed for several days due to Israeli airstrikes.

How is the humanitarian situation evolving in Gaza?

The humanitarian crisis is worsening, with dwindling supplies of food, fuel, and drinking water due to a complete Israeli siege. Many people have been forced to rely on dirty water from wells as desalination plants have shut down for lack of fuel.

What is the status of hospitals and medical facilities in Gaza?

Hospitals are grappling with high numbers of dead and injured, making it difficult to safely transport wounded individuals. Medical aid group Doctors Without Borders reported that some medical staff and patients had to spend part of the night in the street due to nearby bombings.

How are other countries and international organizations responding to the crisis?

The U.S. and Israel’s other allies have pledged strong support for the war on Hamas. However, the European Union’s foreign policy chief has called on the Israeli military to give people more time to evacuate from northern Gaza.

What is happening in the occupied West Bank?

The Palestinian Health Ministry reports that 53 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war. There has also been a surge in attacks by Israeli settlers in the area since the Hamas assault began.

Are there any efforts to provide aid to Gaza?

Talks are underway to get aid into Gaza through the Rafah crossing, according to anonymous Egyptian officials. However, the situation remains extremely complicated, given the ongoing military activities and border closures.

More about Mass Evacuation in Gaza

  • Gaza Health Ministry Official Reports
  • Israeli Government Casualty Data
  • United Nations Humanitarian Updates
  • Doctors Without Borders Medical Aid Report
  • European Union Foreign Policy Statements
  • U.S. Government Statements on Hamas and Israel
  • Egyptian Government Rafah Crossing Announcements
  • Palestinian Health Ministry West Bank Updates
  • International Aid Efforts for Gaza

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