Israel’s military is telling 1.1 million people in northern Gaza to evacuate their homes immediately, as it appears to prepare to ramp up retaliation for Hamas’ October 7 terror attacks.
Israeli warplanes continued on Friday to bombard the cramped coastal enclave, which Hamas controls. Civilians in Gaza crammed possessions into cars, taxis and pickup trucks in a mass rush toward the south. Those without other options walked, carrying what they could.
Images on social media Friday showed the Israel Defense Forces dropping leaflets from planes telling Gazans to south or risk further danger.
“In the following days, the IDF will continue to operate significantly in Gaza City and make extensive efforts to avoid harming civilians,” the IDF warned. “Evacuate south for your own safety and the safety of your families and distance yourself from Hamas terrorists who are using you as human shields.”
Israeli forces also conducted local raids in Gaza in search of clues to the locations of some 150 hostages held by Hamas in the area.
The United Nations and several humanitarian groups have sharply criticized Israel’s evacuation order.
“After days of airstrikes, the Israeli Defense Forces have ordered the Palestinians in Gaza City and its surroundings to move to the south of the territory,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Friday, ahead of a Security Council meeting about the conflict.
“Moving more than one million people across a densely populated warzone to a place with no food, water, or accommodation, when the entire territory is under siege, is extremely dangerous – and in some cases, simply not possible,” he said.
Alongside the UN, humanitarian organizations including the Norwegian Refugee Council and Amnesty International have called for Israel to rescind its order.
Forcing Gaza civilians to relocate amounts “to the war crime of forcible transfer,” the Norwegian Refugee Council said.