Israeli army orders all residents of Gaza City to evacuate

The Israeli military has ordered all residents of Gaza City to evacuate south to the central Gaza Strip amid an intensifying offensive there.

Leaflets dropped by plane instruct “everyone in Gaza City” to leave what is described as a “dangerous combat zone” via designated safe routes – marked by two roads leading to shelters in Deir al-Balah and al-Zawaida.

The United Nations said it was very concerned about the evacuation order.

Over the past two weeks, Israeli forces have issued evacuation orders and entered several areas of Gaza City where they believe Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have been regrouping since the beginning of the year.

Fighting continues as indirect talks on a potential ceasefire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas are set to continue in Qatar. The talks will involve the intelligence chiefs of Egypt, the United States and Israel.

More than a quarter of a million people are estimated to still be living in Gaza City – and some have been seen fleeing south.

Others, however, did not want to leave.

“I will not leave Gaza. I will not make the same stupid mistake that others have made. Israeli missiles do not distinguish between north and south,” Gaza resident Ibrahim al-Barbari, 47, told the BBC.

“If death is the fate of me and my children, we will die with honor and dignity in our home,” he said.

In a statement released earlier on Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said its troops had “conducted an anti-terror operation” last night targeting Hamas and PIJ militants operating inside the headquarters of the UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees (Unrwa) in Gaza City.

The troops opened a “determined corridor to facilitate the evacuation of civilians” from the area before they entered the building and “eliminated the terrorists in close combat,” the report added.

Unrwa did not immediately comment.

The IDF also said it killed dozens of militants in the Shejaiya district, east of Gaza City, and destroyed an underground tunnel during the day.

Speaking in the Israeli parliament on Wednesday, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said 60% of Hamas fighters had been killed or injured since the Israeli offensive began. The BBC was unable to independently verify these figures.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Human Rights Office said it was “horrifying” under an IDF order for civilians to evacuate to “areas where Israeli military operations are taking place and where civilians continue to be killed and injured”.

The report also warned that the Deir al-Balah area is already overcrowded with Palestinians displaced from other parts of Gaza and has little infrastructure and limited access to humanitarian aid.

The Israeli military launched an operation in Gaza to destroy the Hamas group in response to an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7, in which some 1,200 people were killed and 251 others taken hostage.

More than 38,295 people have died in Gaza since then, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

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