Israel asks Gaza civilians to evacuate, UN calls order "Impossible"
The Israeli military on Friday asked the United Nations that the 10.1 lakh Palestinians in Gaza should relocate to the enclave's south within the next 24 hours, a UN spokesman said, in what Palestinians fear could be a precursor to a planned Israeli ground offensive, news agency Reuters reported.
The Israeli military also applied to all UN staff and those sheltered in UN facilities, including schools, health centres and clinics, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said. The Israeli military warning came as Israel amassed tanks near the Gaza border and pounded the Palestinian enclave with air strikes following a deadly Hamas militant attack in Israel.
"The United Nations considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences," UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement. Follow Live Updates on Israel-Hamas war
"The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation," he said.
In a video statement, the Israel Defense Forces or IDF spokesperson Jonathan Conricus said the aim is to minimise the damage to civilians.
"There are significant combat operations ongoing, and we are preparing for the future and the continuance of our combat operations. Out of an understanding that there are civilians here who are not our enemy and we do not want to target them, we are asking them to evacuate so that we will be able to continue to strike military targets belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip... The IDF remains fully committed to the law of international conflict. We will carry ourselves accordingly in sharp contrast to the enemies around us and to Hamas, which is in total disregard of anything related to values, norms and definitely not the laws of armed conflict...," Conricus said.
Reacting to the development, head of the Hamas government media office Salama Marouf said the warning was an attempt by Israel “to broadcast and pass on fake propaganda, aiming to sow confusion among citizens and harm our internal cohesion”.
“We urge our citizens not to engage in these attempts,” he added.
The weekend rampage by Hama militants killed 1,300 people and was the worst attack on civilians in Israel's history.
Israel has responded so far by putting Gaza, home to 20.3 lakh people, under siege and launching a bombing campaign that destroyed whole neighbourhoods. Gaza authorities said more than 1,500 Palestinians have been killed.