Amid escalating tensions, Israel’s military has issued an evacuation directive for approximately 1 million residents of northern Gaza, a move that precedes a potential ground invasion targeting the dominant Hamas militant group.
The U.N. has voiced concerns about this large-scale movement, cautioning that such a massive displacement—representing nearly half of Gaza’s populace—could lead to catastrophic outcomes.
However, Hamas sees the directive differently, labeling it as a mere tactic, and has urged its citizens to remain put.
Gaza City, the residential center of numerous Palestinians, witnessed widespread anxiety among its inhabitants.
Already grappling with the total siege imposed by Israel, which includes a blockade of essential supplies and an overarching blackout, the populace is now confronting the added pressure of evacuation.
Nebal Farsakh, who represents the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza City, expressed the gravity of the situation, stating with visible emotion, “Forget about food, forget about electricity, forget about fuel. The only concern now is just if you’ll make it, if you’re going to live.”
The ongoing conflict has already led to the tragic loss of over 3,000 lives on both sides, intensifying tensions in the region.
Recent exchanges of fire between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah have further stoked fears of the conflict broadening, even though there’s currently a lull on that front.
The directive issued by Israel’s military for Gaza’s northern civilians to relocate south is set to impact 1.1 million individuals.
Compliance would result in the entire territory’s populace being confined to the southern half of Gaza, a mere 40 kilometers in length, The Associated Press reports.
The directive comes even as Israeli operations persistently target areas in southern Gaza.
Israel’s justification for these strikes revolves around targeting the military foundations of Hamas, much of which is concealed underground.
Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesperson, assured that every possible effort will be made to “avoid harming civilians” and reiterated that residents can return post-war.
However, Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, in a joint press meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, highlighted the challenges, saying, “The camouflage of the terrorists is the civil population. Therefore, we need to separate them. So those who want to save their life, please go south.”
Yet, the U.N.’s Stephane Dujarric has warned against such evacuation measures, emphasizing that they could escalate the existing “tragedy into a calamitous situation.”
The uncertainty surrounding safe zones has left residents like Khaled Abu Sultan in a dilemma over whether to move his family south, as he admits, “We don’t know anything.”
This evacuation order has especially resurfaced traumatic memories for those Palestinians in Gaza who trace their lineage back to the refugees from the 1948 war.
The U.N. disclosed that Israeli airstrikes have already displaced nearly 423,000 Gazans, which is almost one in five residents.