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regular-article-logo Monday, 26 February 2024

Israel orders more areas in and around Gaza’s second-largest city of Khan Younis to evacuate

‘Khan Younis is dangerous combat zone’, say leaflets dropped by Israel asking residents to leave

AP Khan Younis Published 04.12.23, 10:34 AM
A Palestinian boy cries at Nasser Hospital, where he was brought after an Israeli strike, in Khan Younis on Sunday

A Palestinian boy cries at Nasser Hospital, where he was brought after an Israeli strike, in Khan Younis on Sunday Reuters picture

Israel’s military on Sunday ordered more areas in and around Gaza’s second-largest city of Khan Younis to evacuate, as it shifted its offensive to the southern half of the territory where it says many Hamas leaders are hiding.

Heavy bombardments were reported overnight and into Sunday in the area of Khan Younis and the southern city of Rafah, as well as parts of the north that had been the focus of Israel’s blistering air and ground campaign.

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Many of the territory’s 2.3 million people are crammed in the south after Israeli forces ordered civilians to leave the north in the early days of the two-month-old war.

With the resumption of fighting, hopes receded that another temporary truce could be negotiated. A weeklong ceasefire, which expired Friday, had facilitated the release of dozens of Gaza-held Israeli and foreign hostages and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

“We will continue the war until we achieve all its goals, and it’s impossible to achieve those goals without the ground operation,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address on Saturday night.

On Sunday, the Israeli military widened evacuation orders in and around Khan Younis, asking residents of at least five more areas and neighbourhoods to leave for their safety.

Residents said the Israeli military dropped leaflets ordering them to move south to Rafah or to a coastal area in the southwest. “Khan Younis city is a dangerous combat zone,” the leaflets read.

The main hospital in Khan Younis received at least three dead and dozens wounded on Sunday morning from an Israeli strike that hit a residential building in the eastern part of the city, according to an Associated Press journalist at the hospital.

Separately, the bodies of 31 people who were killed in Israeli bombardment across the central areas of the strip were taken to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Gaza’s central city of Deir al-Balah, said Omar al-Darawi, an administrative employee at that hospital.

AP video showed bodies in white body bags on the ground outside the hospital in Deri al-Balah as dozens of people held funeral prayers on Sunday morning. The bodies were then taken on a truck for burial.

One woman wept, cradling the body of a child on her lap as she sat on a chair. Another adult carried the body of a baby as he got into a truck.

UN monitors said in a report issued before the latest evacuation orders that those who were told to leave make up about one-quarter of the territory of Gaza — home to nearly 800,000 people before the war.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has warned Israel to avoid significant new mass displacement.

The Israeli military said on Sunday that its fighter jets and helicopters “struck terror targets in the Gaza Strip, including terror tunnel shafts, command centres and weapons storage facilities” overnight, while a drone killed five Hamas fighters.

In northern Gaza, rescue teams with little equipment scrambled on Sunday to dig through the rubble of buildings in the Jabaliya refugee camp and other neighbourhoods in Gaza City in search of potential survivors and dead bodies.

“They strike everywhere,” said Amal Radwan, a woman sheltering in Jabaliya, an urban refugee camp. “There is the non-stop sound of explosions around us.”

Mohamed Abu Abed, who lives in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in Gaza City, also said there were relentless airstrikes and shelling in his neighbourhood and surrounding areas.

“The situation here is imaginable,” he said. “Death is everywhere. One can die in a flash.”

The health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said on Saturday that the overall death toll in the strip since the October 7 start of the war had surpassed 15,200, a sharp jump from the previous count of more than 13,300 on November 20. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but it said 70 per cent of the dead were women and children. It said more than 40,000 people had been wounded since the war began.

“Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed. Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating,” US Vice-President Kamala Harris told reporters on Saturday during the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.

Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, said Israel was making “maximum effort” to protect civilians and the military has used leaflets, phone calls, and radio and TV broadcasts to urge Gazans to move from specific areas. He added that Israel is considering creating a security buffer zone that would not allow Gazans direct access to the border fence on foot.

Harris told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in a meeting that “under no circumstances” would the US permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, an ongoing siege of Gaza or the redrawing of its borders, according to a US summary.


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