Israel Defense Forces officials have issued a warning for civilians to evacuate Gaza City, but Hamas officials have urged Palestinian civilians “to ignore” the message, and officials from the United Nations foresee a humanitarian catastrophe.
“The IDF calls for the evacuation of all civilians from Gaza City,” said IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus, who read on social media a statement transmitted to Palestinian civilians. “In the following days, the IDF will continue to operate with significant force in Gaza City and will make extensive efforts to avoid harming civilians.”
Conricus urged Palestinian civilians to head south from Gaza City until they cross the Gaza River, saying they should “distance yourself from Hamas terrorists who are using you as human shields.” Hamas officials countered that Israeli forces are trying to “harm our internal cohesion” through “fake propaganda” directed at the beleaguered local population.
“We urge our citizens not to engage in these attempts,” Hamas government media office chief Salama Marouf said, per Reuters.
The terrorist organization also delivered that message through the Gaza interior ministry. “We call on citizens not to respond to audio recordings circulated randomly by the Israeli occupation,” the interior ministry said, per a Lebanon-based media outlet.
Israeli’s order could have “devastating humanitarian consequences” for the 1.1 million people who live north of the river, according to the U.N.
“The United Nations considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences,” a U.N. spokesperson said, per the Times of Israel. “The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation.”
Another IDF spokesman acknowledged that “it will take several days” for an evacuation of that scale to take place.
“We are conveying [the warning] through communication channels and in Arabic, there are ways for the message to reach the population,” IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters. “Whoever does not listen to these recommendations puts his family in danger.”
More than 1,500 Palestinians have died in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, according to Hamas officials. Israeli forces began that bombing campaign after a shocking cross-border raid on Saturday in which Hamas terrorists killed at least 1,300 people, wounded about 3,000 more, and seized and took 150 hostages back into the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials acknowledged they are “not being surgical” in their bombing runs.
“Our aim is to take all of Hamas’ military abilities and strip them away,” Conricus said. “At the end of this war, our intention is that Hamas will no longer have any ability to strike, or harm, or kill Israeli civilians. That is the purpose of what we’re doing now inside the Gaza Strip. That is why the Israeli Air Force has been delivering significant amounts of ordnance, of bombs, on the Gaza Strip. And that is what we will continue to do as this war unfolds.”