ISRAEL has ordered residents of Gaza City to evacuate the area within 24 hours, in what is viewed as a precursor of a ground invasion by the Israeli army after suffering a serious setback by the Palestinian resistance groups over the past few days.
In a statement released on Friday, Israel’s military called on all people living north of the Gaza Strip, which amount to more than one million, to relocate south.
The Israeli military said it would operate ‘significantly’ in Gaza City in the coming days and civilians would only be able to return when another announcement was made.
‘Now is a time for war,’ said Israel’s minister of military affairs Yoav Gallant as the regime’s warplanes continue pounding Gaza for the seventh consecutive day in relentless attacks that have claimed the lives of at least 1,500 Palestinians, including some 500 children and 280 women.
Hamas said the Gaza relocation warning was ‘fake propaganda’ and urged citizens not to fall for it.
Hamas’ armed wing al-Qassam Brigades said it launched 150 rockets towards the city of Asqalan in Israel ‘in response to the displacement and targeting of civilians’.
Israel started its onslaught on Saturday after resistance groups launched multi-pronged Operation al-Aqsa Flood, the largest military operation against the occupying regime in decades, leaving more than 1,300 settlers and troops dead and three times as many injured.
Since then, the resistance groups have fired thousands of rockets in retaliatory strikes at the occupied territories.
The Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million people, is under years-long siege by the Israeli regime.
The attacks have already displaced more than 420,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the United Nations.
The United Nations said it considered it impossible for such a movement of people to take place ‘without devastating humanitarian consequences’.
The World Health Organisation said the Palestinian health ministry has told them it would be impossible to move vulnerable hospital patients to the south of the Gaza Strip.
‘The Palestinian Ministry of Health has informed WHO that is impossible to evacuate vulnerable hospital patients from the north of Gaza,’ WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.
The UN health agency also called for immediate humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip, warning Israel’s blockade and bombardment have left the enclave’s health system at ‘breaking point’.
It noted that Gaza’s overstretched hospitals had only a few hours of electricity a day, with fuel being rationed to maintain critical services including intensive care, and X-ray and dialysis services.
Israel has said it has dropped about 6,000 bombs on Gaza since it began its bombardment.
Gaza has about 30 hospitals, 13 of them operated by the Ministry of Health and others privately run.
‘What’s happening is that a significant part of the Palestinian population in Gaza is being wiped off. Not differently from what has happened before but with increased ferocity,’ Francesca Albanese, the UN’s special rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said in press statements.
Albanese also commented on a decision by Israel earlier this week to cut off Gaza’s supply of water, electricity, food, and other basic facilities, underlining that starving a besieged population and depriving them of essentials was a war crime.