JERUSALEM/NEW YORK/TEL AVIV, Oct 14 — Israel’s military on Friday ordered all civilians of Gaza City, nearly 1.1 million people, to relocate south within 24 hours, as it amassed tanks near the Gaza Strip ahead of an expected ground invasion.
The warning came as great concern has been sparked over the humanitarian situation in the enclave as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rages on.
The United Nations warned on Friday that the displacement of 1.1 million residents from northern Gaza could lead to “devastating humanitarian consequences”.
“Now is a time for war,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Thursday, as Israeli warplanes continued pounding Gaza in retaliation for the weekend attacks by Hamas militants that killed more than 1,300 Israelis.
The Israeli military said it would operate “significantly” in Gaza City in the coming days and civilians would only be able to return when another announcement was made.
An official of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, said the Gaza relocation warning was “fake propaganda” and urged citizens not to fall for it.
Hamas called on Palestinians to rise up on Friday in protest of Israel’s bombardment of the enclave, urging Palestinians to march to East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque and clash with Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank.
The Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million people, is under siege by Israel, which has pounded Hamas targets in the enclave and killed more than 1,500 Palestinians in retaliatory attacks since last weekend.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said fuel powering emergency generators at hospitals in Gaza could run out within hours, and the UN’s World Food Programme warned that food and fresh water were running dangerously low.
“The human misery caused by this escalation is abhorrent, and I implore the sides to reduce the suffering of civilians,” ICRC regional director Fabrizio Carboni said.
Norway on Friday condemned Israel’s “unacceptable” siege of Gaza. “Israel is entitled to defend itself, … but it cannot use all possible means,” Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt told public radio NRK.
Meanwhile, the United States’ Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv to meet with senior government leaders. The visit came a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in the region on Thursday.
In Amman, Jordanian King Abdullah II warned on Friday in a meeting with Blinken against displacing Palestinians.
“The crisis should not be spread to neighboring countries and exacerbate the refugee issue,” the king said, according to a palace statement.
The US State Department will begin offering charter flights to Europe on Friday to help citizens leave Israel, the White House said.
The conflict also spurred some civil unrest in Europe, with police in Paris using tear gas and water cannons to break up a banned rally in support of the Palestinian people. Some Jewish schools in Amsterdam and London were set to close temporarily due to safety concerns.
US law enforcement officials in New York and Los Angeles said they had stepped up police presence for Friday, especially around synagogues and Jewish community centers, but some officials sought to play down the threat.
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