Gaza civilians vow ‘death is better than leaving’ as many refuse to evacuate ‘hellhole’ despite Israel saying Hamas are using them as human shields, and UN warning ‘noose around the population is tightening’
- Israel told 1.1 million Gazans to flee south in 24 hours before mass bombing
- But many refused to leave and those that are trying say they have nowhere to go
Defiant Gazans who refused to evacuate after Israel gave them 24 hours before launching an all-out assault have claimed they would rather die than leave their homes.
While some heeded the call to leave, by Friday afternoon there was little sign of a mass exodus, despite the UN warning the area is ‘fast becoming a hellhole’.
‘Death is better than leaving,’ said Mohammad, 20, standing in the street outside a building reduced to rubble in an Israeli air strike two days ago near the centre of Gaza.
‘I was born here, and I will die here, leaving is a stigma.’
With power supplies cut and food and water in the Palestinian enclave running short after a week of retaliatory air strikes and a full Israeli blockade, the U.N. said Gaza’s civilians were in an impossible situation.
‘The noose around the civilian population in Gaza is tightening. How are 1.1 million people supposed to move across a densely populated warzone in less than 24 hours?’ U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths wrote on social media.
Hamas, which controls the densely populated Palestinian territory and slaughtered Israeli civilians in Saturday’s attacks, vowed to fight until the last drop of blood and told residents to stay put after Israel said they should leave to escape the onslaught because Hamas ‘is using you as human shields’.
A child mourns after his relative killed in Israeli attacks in Gaza City, Gaza on October 13, 2023. The number of Palestinians killed from a massive Israeli air campaign against the Gaza Strip has risen to 1,799, the Health Ministry said Friday
Doctors examine a child injured as a result of Israeli attacks at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, Gaza on October 13, 2023
Palestinian citizens inspect damage to their homes caused by Israeli airstrikes on October 13, 2023 in Gaza City, Gaza. Israel has sealed off Gaza and launched sustained retaliatory air strikes, which have killed at least 1,400 people with more than 300,000 displaced, after a large-scale attack by Hamas
Smoke rises above buildings, in the southern Gaza Strip, following an Israeli strike, on Friday October 13, 2023. Israel has told Palestinians to leave northern Gaza. An Israeli Strike Continuous on Gaza , Rafah
Bodies of Palestinians who lost their lives in Israeli airstrikes are brought back to their families in Rafah, Gaza on October 13, 2023. The number of Palestinians killed from a massive Israeli air campaign against the Gaza Strip has risen to 1,799, the Health Ministry said Friday
Residents evacuate Gaza City following an Israeli warning of increased military operations in the Gaza Strip, 13 October 2023
Though many stayed, thousands of Palestinians still tried to flee south.
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Some were in cars, many others were on foot as they sought to make the trip to the south of the densely populated territory that is home to 2.4 million people on its 362 140 square miles.
But all those trying to avoid the destruction of Israel’s bombs are left with one crucial question: ‘Where to go?’
‘How long will the strikes and death last? We have no homes left, every area of Gaza is under threat,’ said 29-year-old Umm Hossam, her face streaked with tears.
‘We call on Arab countries to protect us. Where are the Arabs? Enough! Enough!’ she cried.
The northern half of the Gaza Strip includes the enclave’s biggest settlement Gaza City. The U.N. said it had been told that Israel wanted the entire population to move across the wetlands that bisect the enclave.
‘Civilians of Gaza City, evacuate south for your own safety and the safety of your families and distance yourself from Hamas terrorists who are using you as human shields,’ the Israeli military said, accusing Hamas of hiding in and under civilian buildings.
Israel says the horrific attack on its civilians means it must annihilate the militant group and others must get out of the way.
Hamas tunnels, military compounds, senior operatives’ residences and weapons storage warehouses were among 750 military targets struck overnight, it said.
The military wing of Hamas said the latest air strikes had killed 13 of the captives it brought back from Israel and that it had fired 150 rockets at Israel in response.
The United Nations said Israel’s call for Gaza civilians to leave could not happen ‘without devastating humanitarian consequences’, prompting a rebuke from Israel which said it should condemn Hamas and support Israel’s right to self-defence.
The Israeli military has not spelled out what sort of operation it is planning next but has pledged to operate ‘significantly’ in coming days.
‘We are fighting for our home. We are fighting for our future,’ Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said. ‘The path will be long, but ultimately I promise you we will win.’
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority that is a rival of Hamas, told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jordan that the forced displacement of Palestinians in Gaza would constitute a repeat of 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from what is now Israel.
Most Gazans are the descendants of such refugees.
Abbas called for aid to be allowed into Gaza immediately. Israel has said it will not lift its blockade until scores of hostages captured by Hamas are set free.
Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed providing safe zones in Gaza ‘where civilians could relocate to be safe from Israel’s legitimate security operations,’ a U.S. state department official told reporters.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said such a huge evacuation was a ‘tall order’, but that Washington would not second guess its ally’s decision to tell civilians to get out of the way.
‘We understand what they’re trying to do and why they’re trying to do this – to try to isolate the civilian population from Hamas, which is their real target,’ he said on MSNBC.
Residents evacuate Gaza City following an Israeli warning of increased military operations in the Gaza Strip, 13 October 2023. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) on 13 October called for the evacuation of all civilians of northern Gaza, ahead of an expected ground invasion
Israel has ordered more than one million people to evacuate northern Gaza within 24 hours ahead of a feared Israeli ground offensive aimed at eradicating Hamas
The order has sent panic through civilians and aid workers already struggling under Israeli airstrikes and a blockade, while the United Nations called such an evacuation ‘impossible’ that would turn an tragedy into calamity. Pictured: Children are seen in a Gaza City hospital
A doctor examines a child injured as a result of Israeli attacks at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, Gaza on October 13, 2023
A Palestinian man runs amid the rubble of a building hit in an Israeli air strike on October 13
Smoke rises following Israeli air strikes and warning of increased military operations in the northern Gaza Strip, 13 October 2023. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) on 13 October called for the evacuation of all civilians of northern Gaza, ahead of an expected ground invasion
A Palestinian looks at dense black smoke during clashes with Israeli soldiers at the north entarnce of the Palestinian city of Ramallah, near Beit El Jewish settelment, in the occupied West Bank on October 13, 2023.
Video shows purported use of white phosphorus munitions by Israeli forces
Smoke plumes billow during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on October 12
A fireball erupts from an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on October 12
A ground invasion of the narrow and densely populated Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million people, poses serious risk, with Hamas threatening to kill its hostages.
Hours after the Israeli evacuation call, there were few signs people were leaving Gaza City, where dozens gathered at the al-Shifa Hospital, vowing to stay put.
Palestinians in southern and central areas of the enclave, where people were expected to flee to, said air strikes had hit there overnight, with central parts also hit on Friday morning. ‘No place is safe in the entire Gaza Strip,’ the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said.
The U.N. humanitarian office (OCHA) said more than 400,000 people had already been made homeless in Gaza and 23 aid workers had been killed. ‘Mass displacement continues,’ it said.
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The U.N. Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) said it had moved its central operations centre and international staff to Gaza’s south and urged Israel to spare its shelters.
White House national security spokesman Kirby said U.S. officials were working with Israel and Egypt, which also has a border with Gaza, on safe passage for civilians there.
‘Obviously, we don’t want to see any civilians hurt,’ he said on CNN. ‘These Palestinian people, they’re victims, too. They didn’t ask for this. They didn’t invite Hamas in and say, you know, ‘Go hit Israel.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during a trip to Tel Aviv that military aid was flowing into Israel but that this was the time for resolve and not revenge.
On Friday Blinken met Jordan’s King Abdullah as well as Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank but lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2007. Blinken is also set to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – some with influence on Hamas.
Iran warned of a response from its allies, which include Hamas and the powerful Hezbollah movement in Lebanon. The Israeli military said gunmen were infiltrating across the Lebanese border.
Iran’s foreign minister met the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nassrallah, in Lebanon.
‘The continuation of war crimes against Palestine and Gaza will receive a response from the rest of the axis,’ Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said.
Jews in other countries talked of fear of attacks. In Paris, police used tear gas and water cannon to break up a banned rally in support of the Palestinians. Some Jewish schools in Amsterdam and London were set to close temporarily due to safety concerns. Police in New York and Los Angeles stepped up their presence around synagogues and Jewish community centres.
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