Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have been leaving their homes and heading south to find safety, responding to an evacuation advisory by Israel. The warning came in anticipation of an impending Israeli ground operation as a response to a recent devastating attack by Hamas, which claimed the lives of over 1,300 people in Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the ongoing intense airstrikes were just the beginning of their efforts to retaliate against Hamas. The Israeli army reported localized ground incursions into Gaza over the last 24 hours, aiming to clear the area of militants and weapons, as well as to locate missing individuals.
The majority of those killed in the previous week’s attack, when militants breached the heavily fortified border into Israel, were civilians, drawing comparisons to the 9/11 attacks in the United States. The Gaza health ministry reported that, as a result of multiple waves of missile strikes in the densely populated area, at least 1,900 Gazans, predominantly civilians, including over 600 children, lost their lives.
Hamas, recognized as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, took hostages, including Israeli, foreign, and dual nationals, during the initial attack. The militant group confirmed that 13 of them were killed in Israeli airstrikes, with four others previously reported as casualties of the bombardments.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, during her visit to Israel, accused Hamas of using Gaza residents as human shields. The situation prompted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to declare it a “dangerous new low,” stressing the need for immediate humanitarian access in Gaza. U.S. President Joe Biden identified addressing the humanitarian crisis as a top priority.
The escalating tensions extended across the Middle East, sparking protests in support of Palestinians. Additionally, Israel faced a potential confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon. In south Lebanon, a Reuters video journalist lost their life, and several other reporters sustained injuries in the midst of rising tensions.
In the occupied West Bank, at least 16 Palestinians died in clashes with Israeli forces during protests expressing solidarity with Gaza. Demonstrations were held in several other countries, including Beirut, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, and Bahrain, in support of the Palestinian cause.
The Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammed Shtayyeh, accused Israel of committing “genocide” in Gaza, while Netanyahu’s spokesperson attributed all occurrences in Gaza to Hamas.
UN officials reported that the Israeli military had requested the evacuation of a significant portion of Gaza’s population, numbering around 1.1 million people. They initially stated this should occur within the next 24 hours, but later acknowledged that it would require more time. Nevertheless, the immediate evacuation of such a large number was deemed “impossible” by the UN, with experts emphasizing the illegality of population transfers and collective punishment under international humanitarian law.
The strained healthcare system in Gaza’s hospitals, overloaded with the wounded and the deceased, has reached a breaking point, according to the World Health Organization. In Jordan, King Abdullah II called for the urgent establishment of “humanitarian corridors” after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Egypt, which controls the Rafah crossing to the south of Gaza, faces the challenge of accommodating refugees while recognizing the possibility that Israel might not permit their return, thus weakening Palestinian statehood aspirations. Residents of Gaza fleeing their homes expressed their uncertainty and desperation, wondering how long the violence and loss of life would persist.
Israeli military operations persisted, with flyers dropped to warn Gaza residents to evacuate immediately from areas south of Wadi Gaza, accompanied by a map indicating the direction toward safety. The army pledged to continue its operations in Gaza City while making extensive efforts to prevent harm to civilians.
The situation in Gaza remained dire, with intense strikes targeting residential areas and reported airstrikes in various parts of the region. The Israeli military announced that they had targeted numerous military sites in the northern Gaza Strip overnight, including residences used as military command centers by senior terrorist operatives.
As the situation continues to evolve, the international community closely watches the ongoing conflict, and calls for the protection of civilians and a peaceful resolution remain a global priority.