In a distressing development, Israel’s military has issued an evacuation order affecting approximately 1.1 million residents in northern Gaza, sparking concerns of a major ground offensive. While the Israeli military has not officially confirmed such an operation, the directive raises apprehensions regarding the escalating hostilities in the region.
This order comes as Israel intensifies its offensive against Hamas militants. UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric expressed the profound challenges posed by this order, warning of “devastating humanitarian consequences” if carried out.
Israel’s recent airstrikes have left the Gaza Strip reeling, with preparations for a potential ground invasion underway. The complete blockade imposed on Gaza, a territory already grappling with severe shortages of food, fuel, and medicine, hinges on the release of approximately 150 hostages taken during a recent incursion.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit and the shipment of U.S. weapons to Israel have signaled international support for its retaliation against Hamas. However, humanitarian organizations have voiced concerns about the deepening crisis in the region.
Israel has halted the supply of basic necessities and electricity to Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants and has restricted the entry of supplies from Egypt, intensifying the dire conditions on the ground.
The announcement from Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz underlines the gravity of the situation, stating, “Not a single electricity switch will be flipped on, not a single faucet will be turned on, and not a single fuel truck will enter until the Israeli hostages are returned home.”
Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman, indicated that preparations for a ground operation are underway, pending a decision by political leaders. Such an operation in densely populated Gaza, under Hamas rule, would likely result in a surge in casualties, as it would entail house-to-house combat.
The United Nations has received information about Israel’s order to relocate 1.1 million people from northern Gaza to the southern part of the territory within 24 hours. UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric appealed for the order to be rescinded on humanitarian grounds.
The order extends to UN staff and those taking shelter in UN facilities, including schools, health centers, and clinics. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) is providing refuge for over 60% of the 423,000 individuals displaced in recent days in the Gaza Strip.
This evacuation order, if executed, could have catastrophic humanitarian repercussions, making the situation even more dire. The United Nations implores that the order be rescinded to prevent what is already a tragedy from deteriorating into a calamitous situation. A Security Council meeting on the conflict has been scheduled for Friday to address the escalating crisis.