Israel’s evacuation order sows fear in Gaza’s south

Published July 3, 2024
A VIEW of destroyed buildings near the border between Gaza Strip and Israel.—AFP
A VIEW of destroyed buildings near the border between Gaza Strip and Israel.—AFP

GAZA STRIP: Israeli forces carried out deadly strikes on Tuesday on southern Gaza and battled fighters after the army again ordered Palestinians to leave areas near the besieged territory’s border with Israel and Egypt.

Witnesses reported intense bombing and shelling around Khan Yunis, southern Gaza’s main city from which Israeli forces withdrew in early April after a devastating months-long battle.

A hospital source in the city said shelling killed eight people and wounded more than 30 others.

The bombardment came after a rocket barrage at southern Israel claimed by the Islamic Jihad, which has fought alongside Hamas. This was followed by an order to evacuate most areas east of the cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah, including the towns of Al Qarara and Bani Suhaila.

80pc population now displaced, says UN humanitarian coordinator

Bani Suhaila resident Ahmad Najjar said the Israeli order has spurred “fear and extreme anxiety”, and “there is a large displacement of residents”. Six consecutive days of intense battles followed a similar evacuation order issued last week for the Gaza City district of Shujaiya.

1.9m displaced

The UN humanitarian coordinator for Gaza said on Tuesday that 1.9 million people — 80 per cent of the territory’s population — were now displaced, adding she was “deeply concerned” by reports of new evacuation orders for Khan Yunis.

The United Nations has estimated that up to 250,000 people have been impacted by the Israeli military order for civilians to leave Al Qarara, Bani Suhaila and other localities near the city of Khan Yunis.

“Over 1 million people have been displaced once again, desperately seeking shelter and safety (and) 1.9 million people are now displaced across Gaza. I’m deeply concerned about reports of new evacuation orders issued in the area of Khan Yunis,” Sigrid Kaag told the UN Security Council.

“Palestinian civilians in Gaza have been plunged into an abyss of suffering. Their homes life shattered, their lives upended. The war has not merely created the most profound of humanitarian crises. It has unleashed a maelstrom of human misery,” Kaag added.

She said that not enough aid was reaching the Gaza Strip and that the opening of new crossings, particularly to southern Gaza, was necessary to avert a humanitarian disaster.

Kaag said the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt should be re-opened, and also pleaded with the international community to do more to fund relief efforts. Israel has not specifically said there will be a military operation in southern Gaza, but so far nearly every evacuation order has heralded major battles.

‘Downshift’

In central Gaza, witnesses said strikes hit the Nuseirat refugee camp where the Palestinian Red Crescent reported at least one dead, a child. Other parts of the Gaza Strip were reeling from continued fighting.

Months of on-and-off talks towa­rds a truce and prisoner release deal have meanwhile made little progress, even after Israeli Prime Min­ister Benjamin Netanyahu recently declared that the “intense phase” of the campaign was winding down.

“We’ve heard the Israelis talk about a significant downshift in their ope­r­ations in Gaza,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2024

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