Israel orders Gaza City residents to leave as fighting escalates


(Bloomberg) — Israel has called on all Palestinians in Gaza City to leave immediately, as a new phase of fighting flares up in what was once the enclave’s most populous area.

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Israeli forces dropped leaflets in Arabic in the city on Wednesday, saying it “will remain a dangerous fighting zone” and that residents should move south to other parts of Gaza.

The city, home to about a million people before the war between Israel and Hamas broke out in October, was the first place Israeli forces attacked when they launched a ground offensive. The city was largely cleared of Hamas units by late 2023, but some fighters have regrouped and the IDF has sent back troops, tanks and airstrikes in the past two weeks.

Israel had previously called on Palestinians from eastern Gaza City to leave, but this is the first time it has ordered a total evacuation. It is unclear whether the IDF plans to send many more troops to the city.

Hamas has said the attacks in Gaza City could jeopardize ceasefire negotiations between the two sides.

Gaza City, in the north of the Strip, was largely destroyed by Israeli airstrikes and the subsequent ground invasion. Most residents fled south to places like Rafah and tent camps, but some returned earlier this year.

In late June, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that the most intense phase of fighting in Gaza would be over “very soon.” Yet his military has struggled to stop Hamas from resurfacing in several areas. The IDF launched a new assault on Khan Younis — formerly Gaza’s second-largest city — earlier this month for similar reasons.

Hamas, designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union, unleashed the war when its fighters swept into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostage. Israel’s assault on Gaza has since killed more than 38,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

(Adds context about Hamas’s fighting and comments.)

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