USA

Gazans stream south to seek shelter from Israeli bombardment

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes in northern Gaza after Israel ordered them to move to the coastal strip’s south and Israeli forces extended the bombardment of the densely populated enclave.

Israel has ordered 1.1mn Palestinian civilians — nearly half of Gaza’s population — to leave the northern part of the 40km impoverished strip ahead of an expected full-scale ground invasion against Hamas, the militant group that staged a cross-border attack last Saturday.

Israeli authorities said Hamas killed at least 1,300 Israelis, mainly civilians, in the assault on southern Israel. At least 2,515 people — 1,182 of them women and children — have been killed in Gaza, Palestinian health officials said, since Israel started its bombardment.

The evacuation order, which Israel said it issued to protect civilians as it targeted Hamas, has been condemned by the UN while the EU’s chief diplomat said on Saturday that Israel needed to respect international law.

Josep Borrell said that the order was impractical and aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the territory.

“It’s utterly, utterly impossible to implement,” Borrell said during a visit to Beijing on Saturday.

The Israeli military declined to discuss any deadlines, but reiterated its demand that civilians leave as soon as possible. “Follow our instructions — move south,” said Lt Colonel Richard Hecht, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces.

Israel said it would refrain from bombing two roads heading south for six hours on Saturday.

Ayman al-Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, said Israel’s order to Palestinians to leave northern Gaza when war was “raging” was a “flagrant violation of international law, international humanitarian law and the law of war”.

Palestinians take refuge in a UN-run school © Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

He said on Saturday that Israel’s offensive was causing a humanitarian catastrophe that represented the “collective punishment of more than 2mn Palestinians” and was “pushing the entire region towards the abyss”.

After meeting Qatar’s prime minister on Friday, Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, said Washington continued “to discuss with Israel the importance of taking every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians”. 

“We recognise that many Palestinian families in Gaza are suffering through no fault of their own, and that Palestinian civilians have lost their lives,” said Blinken, while reiterating that Israel had a right to defend its citizens.

“We know the humanitarian situation is urgent. We’re actively engaged with partners, including Qatar, to get aid to those who need it.”

Qatar, a US ally which hosts Hamas’s political office, is also seeking to secure the release of hostages seized by Hamas during its attack. Israel has identified 120 hostages, Hecht said.

Gaza’s border with Egypt, the strip’s only exit not controlled by Israel, remained largely closed, leaving no way out for the 2.3mn Palestinians hemmed inside the enclave since Israel imposed a 2007 blockade in response to Hamas’s violent takeover of the territory.

Israel has cut off food, fresh water and electricity to Gaza, after defence minister Yoav Gallant declared a “complete siege” this week. The UN said water supplies were drastically low, with people forced to drink brackish water, raising fears of disease.

“Death is better than this life,” said Mona Hanafy, 55, who took refuge in a UN-run school after her home in Gaza City was destroyed. “There are very few bathrooms and there is no water. We have only eaten biscuits since yesterday. We went to a supermarket but found nothing there.”

IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said on Saturday that Israel intended to “enhance our military operations” in Gaza City, the largest city in the densely crowded enclave and a centre of Hamas’s political and military apparatus.

The IDF said on Friday that Israeli special forces had entered Gaza in the first known incursion since a 2014 war, searching for hostages. They collected “evidence that would assist in the effort to locate hostages”, and fired at Hamas anti-tank missile crews attacking Israel.

An Israeli soldier directs a Merkava battle tank
Israeli tanks have been deployed on the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel © Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Hamas has indicated it intended to trade the hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said on Friday that hundreds of thousands of Gazans were fleeing south in cars, trucks and carts as fuel shortages and destroyed roads hampered their escape. Others were either choosing to stay or were unable to leave.

The displacement amounted to a second “Nakba” or catastrophe — the term used by Palestinians to describe their eviction from their homeland after the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 — Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday.

Jan Egeland, the Norwegian former diplomat who was involved with the Oslo Accord, told BBC: “There are hundreds of thousands of people fleeing for their life — [that is] not something that should be called an evacuation. It is a forcible transfer of people from all of northern Gaza, which according to the Geneva convention is a war crime.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, said on Friday that the war would “take time”.

“We’re striking our enemies with unprecedented power,” Netanyahu said in a rare Shabbat address. “This is only the beginning. Our enemies are only starting to pay the price.”

On Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, Iran-backed Hizbollah fighters fired anti-tank missiles at Israeli soldiers, sent two drones into Israel and fired surface-to-air missiles at Israeli aircraft, Conricus said on Saturday.

“The situation on the northern border remains very tense,” he said.

Additional reporting by Simeon Kerr

Summarize this content to 100 words Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes in northern Gaza after Israel ordered them to move to the coastal strip’s south and Israeli forces extended the bombardment of the densely populated enclave.Israel has ordered 1.1mn Palestinian civilians — nearly half of Gaza’s population — to leave the northern part of the 40km impoverished strip ahead of an expected full-scale ground invasion against Hamas, the militant group that staged a cross-border attack last Saturday.Israeli authorities said Hamas killed at least 1,300 Israelis, mainly civilians, in the assault on southern Israel. At least 2,515 people — 1,182 of them women and children — have been killed in Gaza, Palestinian health officials said, since Israel started its bombardment.The evacuation order, which Israel said it issued to protect civilians as it targeted Hamas, has been condemned by the UN while the EU’s chief diplomat said on Saturday that Israel needed to respect international law.Josep Borrell said that the order was impractical and aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the territory.“It’s utterly, utterly impossible to implement,” Borrell said during a visit to Beijing on Saturday.The Israeli military declined to discuss any deadlines, but reiterated its demand that civilians leave as soon as possible. “Follow our instructions — move south,” said Lt Colonel Richard Hecht, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces. Israel said it would refrain from bombing two roads heading south for six hours on Saturday. Ayman al-Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, said Israel’s order to Palestinians to leave northern Gaza when war was “raging” was a “flagrant violation of international law, international humanitarian law and the law of war”.Palestinians take refuge in a UN-run school © Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty ImagesHe said on Saturday that Israel’s offensive was causing a humanitarian catastrophe that represented the “collective punishment of more than 2mn Palestinians” and was “pushing the entire region towards the abyss”.After meeting Qatar’s prime minister on Friday, Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, said Washington continued “to discuss with Israel the importance of taking every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians”. “We recognise that many Palestinian families in Gaza are suffering through no fault of their own, and that Palestinian civilians have lost their lives,” said Blinken, while reiterating that Israel had a right to defend its citizens. “We know the humanitarian situation is urgent. We’re actively engaged with partners, including Qatar, to get aid to those who need it.”Qatar, a US ally which hosts Hamas’s political office, is also seeking to secure the release of hostages seized by Hamas during its attack. Israel has identified 120 hostages, Hecht said. You are seeing a snapshot of an interactive graphic. This is most likely due to being offline or JavaScript being disabled in your browser.Gaza’s border with Egypt, the strip’s only exit not controlled by Israel, remained largely closed, leaving no way out for the 2.3mn Palestinians hemmed inside the enclave since Israel imposed a 2007 blockade in response to Hamas’s violent takeover of the territory.Israel has cut off food, fresh water and electricity to Gaza, after defence minister Yoav Gallant declared a “complete siege” this week. The UN said water supplies were drastically low, with people forced to drink brackish water, raising fears of disease.“Death is better than this life,” said Mona Hanafy, 55, who took refuge in a UN-run school after her home in Gaza City was destroyed. “There are very few bathrooms and there is no water. We have only eaten biscuits since yesterday. We went to a supermarket but found nothing there.”IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said on Saturday that Israel intended to “enhance our military operations” in Gaza City, the largest city in the densely crowded enclave and a centre of Hamas’s political and military apparatus.The IDF said on Friday that Israeli special forces had entered Gaza in the first known incursion since a 2014 war, searching for hostages. They collected “evidence that would assist in the effort to locate hostages”, and fired at Hamas anti-tank missile crews attacking Israel.Israeli tanks have been deployed on the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel © Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty ImagesHamas has indicated it intended to trade the hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said on Friday that hundreds of thousands of Gazans were fleeing south in cars, trucks and carts as fuel shortages and destroyed roads hampered their escape. Others were either choosing to stay or were unable to leave. The displacement amounted to a second “Nakba” or catastrophe — the term used by Palestinians to describe their eviction from their homeland after the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 — Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday. Jan Egeland, the Norwegian former diplomat who was involved with the Oslo Accord, told BBC: “There are hundreds of thousands of people fleeing for their life — [that is] not something that should be called an evacuation. It is a forcible transfer of people from all of northern Gaza, which according to the Geneva convention is a war crime.”Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, said on Friday that the war would “take time”.“We’re striking our enemies with unprecedented power,” Netanyahu said in a rare Shabbat address. “This is only the beginning. Our enemies are only starting to pay the price.”On Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, Iran-backed Hizbollah fighters fired anti-tank missiles at Israeli soldiers, sent two drones into Israel and fired surface-to-air missiles at Israeli aircraft, Conricus said on Saturday. “The situation on the northern border remains very tense,” he said. Additional reporting by Simeon Kerr
https://www.ft.com/content/eb4717fc-432e-4251-b778-7a365f8de825 Gazans stream south to seek shelter from Israeli bombardment

Back to top button