Residents Flee Southward in Gaza Following Israel’s Mass Evacuation Directive and Limited Military Incursions

by Michael Nguyen
Gaza crisis

In the wake of a violent, expansive assault by Hamas into Israel, Palestinians hastily vacated the northern regions of Gaza this past Saturday. The Israeli armed forces directed nearly 50% of the area’s populace to evacuate toward the south, also executing brief ground incursions as a precursor to a potential land operation.

As Israel amplified its evacuation messages through aerial leaflet drops and social media, Hamas countered by advising residents to remain in their homes. International humanitarian organizations and the United Nations have cautioned that such an abrupt population shift could result in extensive human suffering, particularly for those unable to move, such as hospital patients.

Traffic choked the main roadways leading away from Gaza City as residents, loaded with belongings, sought refuge in cars, trucks, and even animal-drawn carts. This exodus occurred under the backdrop of ongoing Israeli airstrikes, which exacerbated already dwindling supplies of essentials such as food, water, and fuel due to an all-encompassing Israeli blockade.

Egyptian authorities announced that the Rafah border crossing to the south would reopen later in the day, marking its first operational period in several days, to permit foreign nationals to exit. Israel stated that Palestinians could travel safely within Gaza along two primary routes during specific daytime hours.

According to the Israeli military, hundreds of thousands have already complied with the evacuation order, although many face obstacles like ruined roads and fuel scarcity, which are complicating their southward journeys.

Overcrowding was reported at a U.N.-administered school in Deir al-Balah, repurposed as a temporary shelter, where evacuees slept in makeshift conditions. One evacuee from the northern town of Beit Hanoun, Howeida al-Zaaneen, described the desperate circumstances, lacking even basic comforts like a mattress.

Israeli forces conducted short-term raids within Gaza, targeting militants and searching for evidence related to the abduction of approximately 150 individuals—comprising men, women, and children—during the shocking October 7 Hamas assault on southern Israel.

The Gaza Health Ministry disclosed that the death toll on the Palestinian side has exceeded 2,200, including 724 children and 458 women. Israel reported more than 1,300 casualties, predominantly civilians, and around 1,500 Hamas combatants killed in the conflict.

Amid concerns over a mass exodus, Egyptian authorities have erected temporary protective barriers at the Rafah crossing, which had been previously closed due to Israeli bombardment. Two anonymous Egyptian officials confirmed this development.

The international community remains deeply involved. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan urged Israel to exercise caution to protect civilian lives in Gaza. Meanwhile, Hamas claimed that Israeli airstrikes resulted in the deaths of 13 hostages, a statement that the Israeli military has refuted.

Public opinion within Israel strongly favors military action, although international concerns continue to mount over the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the West Bank. Despite the immense challenges and risks, the Israeli military maintains that its evacuation directive aims to protect civilians and prevent their exploitation as human shields by Hamas.

Humanitarian agencies underscore the severity of the situation, including the critical shortage of fuel necessary for safe drinking water. The United Nations has warned that without immediate intervention, severe dehydration could result in additional loss of life, especially among young children.

As the crisis unfolds, Palestinians in Gaza face a painful choice between fleeing and staying, each option fraught with peril, as Israeli airstrikes continue to devastate the territory, including regions where residents have been directed to relocate.

Contributions to this report were made by correspondents from various locations, including Jerusalem, Baghdad, Cairo, El-Arish in Egypt, Beirut, and Riyadh.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Gaza Evacuation

What is the reason for the mass evacuation call in northern Gaza?

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

What is the response of the international community to the evacuation?

The United Nations and various aid groups have expressed concern that such a rapid exodus would result in significant human suffering. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan also called for the protection of civilians in Gaza.

How are the people in Gaza responding to the evacuation call?

Many Palestinians have headed south, taking with them whatever possessions they can carry. However, damaged roads due to airstrikes and fuel shortages have hindered their journeys. Some have sought refuge in U.N.-run schools turned into shelters.

What is the condition of essential supplies in Gaza?

The supply of food, fuel, and drinking water is running low in the 40-kilometer-long territory due to a complete Israeli siege. There is also a near-total power blackout affecting the region.

What is Egypt’s role in the situation?

Egyptian officials have stated that the southern Rafah crossing would open to allow foreigners out. Egyptian authorities have also erected “temporary” blast walls on their side of the crossing.

What are the casualty numbers so far?

As of the last report, over 2,200 people have been killed in Gaza, including 724 children and 458 women. On the Israeli side, more than 1,300 people, most of them civilians, have been killed. Roughly 1,500 Hamas militants were also reported killed during the fighting.

What is the stance of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups?

Hamas has urged people to stay in their homes and has engaged in rocket attacks against Israel. The group also claims that Israel’s airstrikes have killed 13 hostages, including foreigners.

What is the position of the Israeli public and government?

The Israeli public is overwhelmingly in favor of a military offensive. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to “destroy Hamas.” The military has also stated that ground troops have temporarily entered Gaza for raids.

What is happening in the West Bank?

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 53 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank since the start of the conflict. The U.N. reports that attacks by Israeli settlers have surged there since the Hamas assault.

Are there any reports of war crimes?

Experts have suggested that both Hamas and Israel may be committing war crimes in their ongoing conflict, although this has not been formally established.

More about Gaza Evacuation

  • United Nations Statement on Gaza Evacuation
  • U.S. Department of State Press Release
  • Report on Gaza’s Essential Supplies
  • Palestinian Health Ministry Statistics
  • Expert Analysis on Possible War Crimes
  • Israel Defense Forces Official Statement
  • Egypt’s Role in Gaza Crisis: Official Statement
  • Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry’s Comments on Gaza
  • U.N.-run Schools in Gaza as Shelters
  • Casualty Report from Israeli Side

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Rachel D October 14, 2023 - 2:53 pm

Hospitals already overstrained and now mass evacuations? this is a crisis on so many levels.

John K October 14, 2023 - 6:46 pm

V. informative article but let’s not forget, there are two sides to every story. Would like to read more on Israel’s viewpoint as well.

Tom V October 14, 2023 - 8:01 pm

Good to see some coverage on Egypt’s role. Often gets overlooked but its crucial here.

Mike Johnson October 14, 2023 - 11:51 pm

Wow, this situation’s getting real intense. can’t believe the number of people displaced. What’s next?

Sarah W. October 15, 2023 - 2:00 am

It’s so heartbreaking to read about families sleeping on the ground. When is the international community gonna step up?

David M October 15, 2023 - 4:50 am

This piece is incredibly detailed. finally someone’s covering all aspects, from military to humanitarian.

Emma L October 15, 2023 - 11:13 am

1 million people urged to move, but where to? Infrastructure’s in shambles. Seems hopeless.


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