Bad to worse. With more to come.
Israel on Friday told 1.1 million people to evacuate northern Gaza, a likely precursor to a ground invasion aimed at eradicating Hamas in retaliation for last weekend’s horrific attacks which left 1,200 Israelis dead.
“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 military said.
The UN begged Israel to rescind the order, calling it a recipe for a humanitarian crisis of potentially catastrophic proportions. “The United Nations considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric warned. Nebal Farsakh, of the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza City, echoed those sentiments.
The IDF said there’s no specific deadline on the order and conceded it’ll “take time.” For their part, Hamas urged citizens to resist, calling the order a “disgusting” example of “psychological warfare.” “Remain steadfast in your homes and stand firm,” the group said.
Israel’s directive calls on Gazans to get south of the Wadi Gaza. The logistical hurdles for locals are myriad. For one thing, Israel bombed the roads, deliberately or otherwise, and not everybody has a car. Then there’s the problem of finding shelter and locating resources in a region where necessities are surely even more scarce than they are in more populated areas of the enclave.
The UN’s Dujarric said the order was applicable to UN staff and Palestinians sheltered at UN facilities, which include health clinics and schools. The implication seemed clear enough: UN personnel who choose to ignore the order are putting themselves at risk. “Forget about food, forget about electricity, forget about fuel, the only concern now is just if you’ll make it,” Farsakh despaired. “If you’re going to live.”
Hamas claimed Friday that Israeli airstrikes had already killed 13 hostages. An IDF spokesman said Israel doesn’t believe that. “We have our own information,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told Al-Jazeera, without elaborating. Hopefully, for the hostages’ sake, the IDF’s information gathering capabilities have improved over the past six days.
Nearly 1,600 Palestinians are dead so far, according to Gaza’s health ministry. At least 500 are (or were) children. Nearly 7,000 are wounded. “We can’t evacuate hospitals and leave the wounded and sick to die,” the ministry said, flatly. A spokesman noted that even if the hospitals tried to move the sick and wounded, there isn’t anywhere else to take them.
As panic spread among the populace, Dujarric was adamant: The evacuation order is poised to make “what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation.” The UN Security Council was scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on Friday afternoon.
Although another IDF official said Israel intends to take “extensive” steps to “avoid harming civilians,” Hagari was reluctant to make promises. Asked by the press if Israel would protect UN facilities and hospitals, he demurred. “If Hamas prevents residents from evacuating, the responsibility lies with them. It’s a war zone.”