Israeli army calls on Gaza City residents to leave


The Israeli army has called on all residents of Gaza City to evacuate south to the central Gaza Strip due to an intensified offensive there.

Leaflets are dropped from planes telling “everyone in Gaza City” to leave the so-called “dangerous combat zone” via designated safe routes. These routes are marked by two roads leading to bomb shelters in Deir al-Balah and al-Zawaida.

The UN has indicated that it is deeply concerned about the evacuation orders that have been issued.

Over the past two weeks, Israeli forces have issued evacuation orders for and reentered several areas of Gaza City, where they say Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have been meeting again since the beginning of the year.

Fighting continues as indirect negotiations over a possible ceasefire and hostage release deal resume between Israel and Hamas in Qatar. The talks are being attended by the intelligence chiefs of Egypt, the US and Israel.

It is estimated that more than a quarter of a million people still live in Gaza City, some of whom have been evacuated south.

Others, however, did not want to leave.

“I will not leave Gaza. I will not make the same stupid mistake as others. Israeli rockets do not distinguish between north and south,” 47-year-old Gaza resident Ibrahim al-Barbari told the BBC.

“If death is my fate and the fate of my children, then we will die with honor and dignity in our homes,” he said.

In a statement issued earlier on Wednesday, the Israeli military (IDF) said its forces had carried out an “anti-terrorism operation” overnight against Hamas and PIJ fighters operating in the headquarters of the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza City.

The troops had opened a “defined corridor to facilitate the evacuation of civilians” from the area before entering the structure and “eliminating terrorists in close-quarters combat”, it added.

There has been no comment yet from UNRWA.

The Israeli military also reported killing dozens of fighters in the eastern Gaza City district of Shejaiya over the past day and dismantling an underground tunnel route.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told the Israeli parliament on Wednesday that 60% of Hamas fighters have been killed or wounded since the start of the Israeli offensive. The BBC could not independently verify these figures.

On Tuesday, the UN Human Rights Office said it was “shocked” by IDF orders for residents to evacuate to “areas where Israeli military operations are ongoing and where civilians continue to be killed and injured.”

It was also warned that the Deir al-Balah area is already severely overcrowded by Palestinians who have fled from other parts of Gaza, with little infrastructure and limited access to humanitarian aid.

The Israeli military has launched a campaign in Gaza to destroy the Hamas group in response to an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7 that killed some 1,200 people and took 251 others hostage.

More than 38,295 people have been killed since then, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

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