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Israel Orders Evacuation of Gaza’s So-Called ‘Safe Zones’

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Israel ordered residents to evacuate from areas in southern Gaza on Monday where thousands of Palestinians had already fled as the north of the enclave was razed by a brutal campaign of bombing and ground operations over recent weeks.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Arabic-language spokesperson shared a map on social media in the morning showing that around a quarter of Khan Younis must be evacuated immediately. The instructions, coupled with other warnings from Israeli officials, indicate that a widespread invasion of the southern Gaza Strip could be about to begin.

The map pointed to the south and west, telling people to head in the directions of either the Mediterranean coast or Rafah close to the Egyptian border. The IDF’s Arabic-language spokesperson later posted to say that the central road out of Khan Younis to the north “constitutes a battlefield” and had been closed, while a “tactical suspension of military activities” would be instituted in Rafah to allow entry until 2 p.m.

Despite orders to flee to Rafah, the southern city on the border with Egypt was bombed itself overnight.

Medical officials in Hamas-controlled Gaza say more than 15,500 have already died in the strip since Israel launched unprecedented attacks in the region in response to the Oct. 7 terror attacks. Up to 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes during the conflict. As of Saturday, around one million already displaced people were living in facilities located in the Middle, Khan Younis, and Rafah areas, according to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

Israel maintains that its evacuation orders are designed to protect civilian life, blaming Hamas for endangering non-combatants by operating inside civilian areas—claims which Hamas denies. Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas after 1,200 people were killed and 240 others were kidnapped in the border attacks two months ago.

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“We pursued them in northern Gaza,” IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a video update Monday. “We’re now pursuing Hamas in southern Gaza too. We will operate in maximum force against Hamas terrorists and infrastructures while minimizing harm to the civilians that Hamas places around them as shields.”

Hagari said that the IDF would implement “lessons learned for the new phase of this war, improving the efficiency and the precision of our operations on the ground.” “We’re pursuing Hamas wherever Hamas is hiding,” he added. “In the north and in the south.”

The expansion of Israel’s operations in Gaza comes days after the collapse of a weeklong truce with Hamas. The temporary ceasefire allowed vital humanitarian aid to enter the enclave while more than 100 hostages were released by Hamas in exchange for over 200 Palestinian prisoners being freed by Israel. Israel says 137 abductees still remain in captivity in Gaza. Both sides blamed each other for the end of the ceasefire, with health officials in Gaza claiming that hundreds of people have died since the fighting resumed.

The United States has encouraged Israel to do more to protect the lives of civilians in Gaza. A large expansion of the war to the south would likely endanger many more Palestinians who have already sought refuge away from the decimated north. Abu Mohammed told Reuters Monday that the evacuation order from Khan Younis was the third time he has had to flee since leaving his home in the northern Gaza City. “Why did they eject us from our homes in Gaza (City) if they planned to kill us here?” he asked.

Last week, IDF International Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus told The Daily Beast that Palestinians who “stay in Khan Younis or Rafah” could expect a “similar fate” to “what happened in Gaza City.” He added that the idea that Israel would “allow Hamas to continue governing Gaza” is “not going to happen,” as doing so would be like permitting “a sword of terror to hang over the throats of Israeli civilians.”



Source: The Daily Beast

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