Massive Southward Exodus in Gaza Following Israeli Calls for Evacuation and Limited Ground Operations

by Gabriel Martinez
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Mass Evacuation in Gaza

On Saturday, Palestinians hastily vacated the northern regions of Gaza in response to Israeli military instructions for nearly half of the region’s inhabitants to move south. This movement preceded a potential Israeli ground assault, coming a week after a devastating and extensive attack by Hamas into Israeli territory.

Israel amplified its evacuation advisories through social media platforms and leaflets disseminated from aircraft, advising approximately one million residents of Gaza to head south. In contrast, Hamas encouraged people to stay put in their homes. International organizations, including the U.N. and various aid agencies, warned that such a swift mass migration could result in severe humanitarian consequences, particularly for hospital patients and others who are incapable of relocating.

A prominent road leading away from Gaza City was congested with families in vehicles and on animal-drawn carts, carrying their belongings. As they left, Israeli airstrikes continued to target the beleaguered region. Eyewitness accounts from Palestinians claimed that Israeli strikes hit vehicles moving south, a claim corroborated by Hamas, which stated that the airstrikes resulted in over 70 deaths.

Although the Israeli military did not offer comments on these airstrikes, they did issue a public notice in Arabic, stating that Palestinians could traverse two principal routes without risk of harm between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. local time. The military announced that by Saturday, “hundreds of thousands” of Palestinians had already migrated southward.


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In Deir al-Balah, south of the designated evacuation region, thousands sought refuge in a U.N.-managed school converted into a shelter. The conditions were far from comfortable, with many resorting to sleeping on the ground or in classroom chairs.

Howeida al-Zaaneen, a 63-year-old from the northern town of Beit Hanoun, stated, “We are forced to sleep on the ground without even a mattress, and we lack clothing. I long to return to my home, irrespective of its condition.”

The Israeli military reported that it had carried out temporary incursions into Gaza to combat militants and to search for approximately 150 missing individuals—comprising men, women, and children—who were abducted during Hamas’ unexpected October 7 assault on southern Israel.

Difficult Choices for Gaza Families

Gazans faced painful decisions concerning whether to vacate their residences. Israeli bombardments have razed entire neighborhoods, and the region is increasingly isolated, with critical shortages of food, water, and medical supplies—compounded by a near-total electrical blackout.

The Gaza Health Ministry announced on Saturday that 2,215 people have been killed in the territory, including 724 children and 458 women. In contrast, the Israeli government reported that the Hamas assault resulted in over 1,300 Israeli deaths, primarily civilians, and approximately 1,500 Hamas fighters were killed during the hostilities.

Concerns Over Forced Exodus

Both Palestinians and some officials in Egypt worry that Israel may aim to expel the population of Gaza through its southern border with Egypt. In anticipation of a large-scale exodus, Egyptian authorities have constructed “temporary” barriers on their side of the heavily fortified Rafah crossing, which has been shut down due to Israeli airstrikes.

Uncertain Future and Humanitarian Crisis

The situation poses a dire humanitarian crisis. Hospitals in Gaza are already overwhelmed with casualties and are incapable of safe evacuations, according to Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesperson for Gaza’s Health Ministry. Meanwhile, international organizations like the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) warned of the horrific scale and pace of the emerging humanitarian catastrophe.

“Quickly, Gaza is turning into a nightmare and is teetering on the edge of total collapse,” noted Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s commissioner general.

Report by [Author’s name], with contributions from Isabel DeBre in Jerusalem, Samya Kullab in Baghdad, Samy Magdy in Cairo, Ashraf Sweilam in El-Arish, Egypt, and Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Gaza Evacuation

Why are Palestinians evacuating northern Gaza?

Palestinians are evacuating northern Gaza in response to the Israeli military’s calls for a mass relocation to the southern part of the territory. This comes in anticipation of a potential ground invasion by Israel following a series of attacks from Hamas.

What is the U.N.’s stance on the situation?

The United Nations and aid groups have expressed concern that a rapid mass movement of people would result in significant human suffering. The U.N. warns that hospital patients and others with special needs may find it particularly challenging to relocate.

Are both Israel and Hamas accused of committing war crimes?

Yes, experts have indicated that both parties, Hamas and Israel, may be committing war crimes in the ongoing conflict. The scale of violence and the number of civilian casualties on both sides have raised serious concerns regarding violations of international law.

How has the conflict affected civilians in Gaza?

Civilians in Gaza are facing extreme hardships. Israeli airstrikes have destroyed entire city blocks, and the territory is under a near-total blackout. Food, water, and medical supplies have been scarce, resulting in a deteriorating humanitarian situation.

What are the casualty figures on both sides?

As of the report, the Gaza Health Ministry stated that 2,215 people have been killed in Gaza, including 724 children and 458 women. Meanwhile, more than 1,300 Israelis, primarily civilians, have been killed. Approximately 1,500 Hamas militants were also reported killed.

What actions have Egypt taken in response to the conflict?

Egyptian authorities have erected temporary blast walls on their side of the Rafah crossing, which is a heavily guarded entry and exit point between Egypt and Gaza. The crossing has been closed for days due to Israeli airstrikes.

What is the international community’s reaction to the conflict?

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

How are hospitals in Gaza coping with the situation?

Hospitals in Gaza are struggling to cope with high numbers of dead and injured. Gaza’s Health Ministry stated that it is impossible to safely transport the wounded from hospitals, which further complicates the situation.

What is the situation at the U.N.-run shelters in Gaza?

The U.N.-run shelters, often converted schools, are crammed with people who have fled their homes. Many of these refugees are sleeping on the ground or in chairs, facing dire conditions without basic necessities.

Are Palestinians fearing a second expulsion?

Yes, many Palestinians in Gaza are descendants of refugees from the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation. The current evacuation orders have rekindled fears among many Palestinians of a second expulsion from their homes.

More about Gaza Evacuation

  • Gaza Health Ministry Statistics
  • United Nations Reports on Gaza
  • EU Foreign Policy Chief Statement
  • U.S. Government’s Stance on Israel-Hamas Conflict
  • International Law Experts on War Crimes
  • Egypt’s Actions at Rafah Crossing
  • Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza: Aid Groups’ Perspective
  • Casualty Figures: Israeli Sources
  • Conditions at U.N.-Run Shelters in Gaza
  • Historical Context: Palestinian Refugees of 1948 War

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