Israel orders evacuations in Gaza's second-largest city


Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, in the hospital in Khan Younis, Dec 3, 2023. [AP Photo]

Israel urged people living in part of the Gaza Strip’s second-largest city to evacuate Monday, as Israeli troops launched new airstrikes and intensified their ground attack targeting Hamas militants.

The Israeli military told people in neighborhoods on the northeastern side of Khan Younis to leave for their safety, directing them to areas farther south. Photos showed smoke rising from buildings in the city that had been leveled by the Israeli attacks, with people carrying bodies wrapped in blankets away from the destruction.

The Israeli military said it attacked hundreds of Gaza locations throughout Monday, expanding its ground operations to every part of the narrow enclave along the Mediterranean Sea. A government spokesperson told reporters, “We’re close to completing that mission in northern Gaza.”

While visiting Gaza, Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, offered a grim assessment of the plight of Palestinians in the territory.

“The level of human suffering is intolerable,” she said in a statement. “It is unacceptable that civilians have no safe place to go in Gaza, and with a military siege in place, there is also no adequate humanitarian response currently possible.”

Khan Younis is in southern Gaza, where many civilians fled as Israel began its campaign against Hamas in the northern part of the enclave. The Israeli military called Sunday for evacuation from parts of Khan Younis, just as it had throughout northern Gaza in late October as it readied a ground offensive, and posted maps of which neighborhoods should be evacuated.

Israel told the Palestinians near Khan Younis to move to areas southeast of the city and to Rafah, on the Egyptian border. But the United Nations’ humanitarian office said areas there “are already overcrowded.”

While Israel has issued multiple rounds of warnings for people to flee areas that later came under attack, it has also faced criticism from U.N. officials who say the conditions in Gaza with unreliable electricity and internet access make it difficult for people to access information.

Gaza’s two main telecommunications providers, Paltel and Jawwal, said that as of 8 p.m. local time, all communications and internet service across the Gaza Strip were disrupted. North Gaza and Gaza City had been experiencing partial outages since the morning, but communications worsened throughout the day.

Germany said Monday it expects Israel to not only inform people about leaving dangerous areas of Gaza, but also ensure they are in a "realistic position to find safe shelter elsewhere."

The United Nations has also warned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza with an estimated 80% of the population displaced from their homes and many staying in overcrowded shelters.

In addition to Israeli troops expanding operations into regions where civilians previously sought shelter, there were also concerns about the impact that more intense fighting in southern Gaza would have on the flow of humanitarian aid, which has come in through the southern border with Egypt.

The Israeli military said Monday it had attacked 200 Hamas targets overnight, including destroying militant operations sites located inside schools in northern Gaza. Israel has accused Hamas of embedding itself in and underneath hospitals and other civilian areas and encouraging civilians to ignore Israeli warnings to evacuate ahead of airstrikes, using them in effect as human shields, an accusation Hamas has denied.

Israel also announced the deaths of three of its soldiers, saying two died Sunday in battles in the northern Gaza strip and the other in central Gaza.

In other fighting Monday, a 32-year-old person was killed and several were injured after clashes erupted following an Israeli raid on the Qalandia refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, according to local news reports.

The Palestinian health ministry said the person was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the camp, which is near the main checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem and next to Israel’s West Bank barrier.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said 22 people were injured and transported to hospitals for further care.

At least 300 Palestinians have been killed since the collapse of a week-long Israel-Hamas truce Friday morning, raising the death toll in Gaza since the October Hamas attack to more than 15,200 people with more than 40,000 wounded, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. The ministry says 70% of the victims are women and children.

After the breakdown of the truce, Netanyahu’s office announced it had instructed its negotiating team in Doha, Qatar to return to Israel.

Israel began its military campaign to wipe out Hamas after Hamas fighters crossed into southern Israel in October. Israel said 1,200 people were killed and some 240 captives taken.

About 100 of the hostages have since been swapped to Israel in exchange for the release of several hundred Palestinian prisoners jailed by Israel. The exchanges ended when the cease-fire expired.