A new phase in Israel’s deadly war against Hamas is coming, Israeli forces said on Saturday, warning that the past week of crippling airstrikes in Gaza could soon be followed by “significant ground operations.”
Israeli troops and military equipment have massed at the border with Gaza as Israel prepares to ramp up its response to a deadly October 7 attack by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the enclave. Warplanes continued to blast Gaza over the weekend, as civilians fled southward, following repeated evacuation instructions by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Several United Nations agencies have warned that mass evacuation under such siege conditions will lead to disaster, and that the most vulnerable Gazans, including the elderly and pregnant, may not be able to relocate at all.
Israel also cut off the general population’s access to electricity, food and water earlier this week, a move that medical aid group Doctors Without Borders is causing cases of severe hydration.
“The order to evacuate 1.1 million people from northern Gaza defies the rules of war and basic humanity,” wrote Martin Griffiths, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in a statement late Friday. “Roads and homes have been reduced to rubble. There is nowhere safe to go.”
The IDF said Saturday it would allow people to move south “for their own safety” on specified streets of Gaza during a six-hour window, but it was unclear how widely the messaging was received on the ground, given the widespread electricity and internet blackout, or how safe passage would be.
Following an apparent explosion on Friday, extensive destruction could be seen on Salah Al-Deen street – a main route for evacuation – in videos authenticated by CNN. A number of bodies, including those of children, can be seen on on a flat-bed trailer that appears to have been used to carry people away from Gaza City