The United Nations said Israel called for the evacuation of 1.1 million people living in northern Gaza within the next 24 hours, describing the order as “impossible” and appealing for a reversal ahead of what increasingly looks like an imminent ground invasion.
(Bloomberg) — The United Nations said Israel called for the evacuation of 1.1 million people living in northern Gaza within the next 24 hours, describing the order as “impossible” and appealing for a reversal ahead of what increasingly looks like an imminent ground invasion.
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“The United Nations considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences,” it said in a statement. “The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation.”
Israel’s military ordered all civilians living in Gaza City to move to the area south of Wadi Gaza, which marks the southern boundary of the city, and said they can only return when permitted.
Israel Defense Forces said Gaza City is “an area where military operations take place” and it would continue to operate significantly there. The army also informed UN officials in Gaza late Thursday that the organization should remove staff from the area within the one-day time period.
The order to evacuate at such scale is unprecedented in recent history. International aid groups and the UN have long said it’s not their role to ask people to leave. During previous conflicts, Israel has ordered mass movement by dropping leaflets.
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The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said it has relocated its central operations and international staff to a location in the south to continue humanitarian operations and support staff and refugees.
UNRWA urges the Israeli authorities to protect all civilians in its shelters including schools, the organization’s Director of Communications Juliette Touma said in a separate statement. “They are UN facilities. They must be protected at all times and must never come under attack in accordance with international humanitarian law,” Touma said.
Twelve UNRWA staff members have been killed since Oct.7 in the Gaza strip.
Israel’s military has positioned as many as 300,000 personnel outside Gaza and signaled a major ground offensive could be imminent as it seeks to “wipe out” the Hamas militant group.
Hamas infiltrated Israel via land, air and sea, killing about 1,300 and abducting 97 others. Israel retaliated with intense airstrikes on Gaza, killing 1,573 and injuring over 6,000, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
A ground invasion would further escalate the war between Hamas and Israel, result in more civilian deaths and raise the prospect of a wider regional conflict. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Tel Aviv Thursday and voiced continued support for Israel’s right to defend itself, but cautioned officials there that “how Israel does this matters.”
The evacuation could also see Gazans pushed closer to Egypt, which shares the Rafah border point with Gaza. The US has said it’s in talks with Egypt to provide safe passage for civilians trying to flee Israeli airstrikes.
Hamas called on its people not to heed the calls for evacuation and said that this was part of Israel’s “psychological warfare.”
–With assistance from Bill Faries and Kateryna Kadabashy.
(Updates with IDF, UNRWA statements)
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