The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a call for the evacuation of all civilians in Gaza City, adding to the ongoing humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict between Israel and Hamas. This request follows a warning from Israel to the United Nations that 1.1 million people in the northern region of Gaza had to evacuate within 24 hours. The UN deemed this order “impossible” and expressed concerns about the dire humanitarian consequences it would entail.
The Urgent Call for Evacuation
The Israeli military made a significant appeal to Gaza City civilians, urging them to evacuate the area immediately. In their warning, the IDF cited their upcoming military operations within the city as the reason for the evacuation. They framed this directive as a necessary measure for the safety of civilians residing in Gaza City.
“This evacuation is for your own safety,” the Israeli military declared in its message to Gaza City residents.
The United Nations, however, stated that it had received a broader order, emphasizing the impracticality and alarming consequences of evacuating such a large population in a short time frame.
A Chaotic Response to the Evacuation Call
The sudden call for evacuation triggered chaos among civilians and aid workers who were already reeling from Israeli airstrikes and a longstanding blockade. Many felt overwhelmed by the sudden urgency of the situation, unsure of how to react.
Inas Hamdan, an officer at the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza City, described the situation as chaotic and highlighted the sense of confusion that gripped the residents. As she quickly gathered her belongings, the cries of her panicked relatives echoed around her. Hamdan revealed that all UN staff in Gaza City and northern Gaza had been instructed to evacuate south to Rafah.
Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza City, tearfully conveyed the impossibility of evacuating one million people within the given timeframe. He emphasized that immediate survival had become the primary concern, overshadowing issues like food, electricity, and fuel.
Farsakh further disclosed that many medics were refusing to evacuate hospitals and were leaving behind patients, including the elderly, children, and numerous wounded civilians.
A Potential Sign of an Imminent Ground Offensive
While the Israeli military did not immediately confirm the broader evacuation order, the alert raised concerns about a potential ground offensive in Gaza. Israel has intensified its bombardment of Gaza through airstrikes. On Thursday, an airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip killed at least 45 people in a refugee camp. This attack heightened international concerns and led to calls for protests from Hamas, raising apprehensions among travelers.
Key Developments in the Conflict
- The Israeli bombardment of Gaza has resulted in more than 1,500 deaths. Simultaneously, the United States has reported 27 American deaths and 14 missing individuals due to Hamas attacks.
- The Israeli military has mobilized 360,000 reservists, preparing for a possible ground operation in Gaza. However, the country’s political leadership has yet to decide on such an operation.
- Over 423,000 people, representing over 18% of Gaza’s population, have fled their homes, with most seeking shelter in schools operated by the United Nations.
- In the occupied West Bank, two Palestinians were killed when Israeli settlers opened fire at a funeral for three Palestinians who had died in a settler rampage the previous day, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Charter Flights for U.S. Citizens Leaving Israel
In response to the escalating situation, the White House announced plans to organize charter flights to Europe starting the following day. The State Department had raised its alert level for American travelers in Israel and the West Bank the day before, advising them to reconsider their travel plans. Similar travel advisories were already in place for U.S. citizens traveling to Jordan and Turkey, with caution to reconsider trips to Egypt and Lebanon due to terrorism risks.
The State Department’s alert notes the potential for terrorist attacks with little or no warning, further emphasizing the critical security concerns.
The announcement about charter flights was made in the wake of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Israel. He met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, demonstrating the U.S. government’s support for Israel. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to arrive in Israel to discuss military aid.
Blinken’s trip continues with stops in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, with the aim of preventing further escalation of the conflict and securing the release of hostages.
Israel’s Conditions for Lifting the Siege on Gaza
The siege of Gaza imposed by Israel has left its 2.3 million inhabitants grappling with severe shortages of food, fuel, and medicine. Hospitals have been overwhelmed due to relentless bombing and the lack of power. The Israeli government has asserted that these conditions will not improve until Hamas militants release approximately 150 hostages captured in a recent assault.
Israel has halted deliveries of basic necessities and electricity to Gaza. Egypt has also enforced a blockade, compounding the challenges faced by the beleaguered residents. Since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, both Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade, restricting the flow of people and goods into and out of the territory.
Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz declared on social media that not a single electric switch or faucet would be turned on and no fuel truck would enter Gaza until the Israeli hostages were released.
Humanitarian organizations have been warning of an impending crisis as resources become increasingly scarce and difficult to access due to extensive airstrikes, which have involved the deployment of 6,000 munitions, according to the Israeli military.
Khalil Abu Yahia, speaking from a refugee camp in northern Gaza, conveyed the desperate situation of residents. He described how people felt trapped, unable to escape the constant threat of bombing, and the harsh conditions they were enduring.