Creating new perspectives since 2009

Israel orders more Palestinians to flee, then bombs areas where it sends them

December 4, 2023 at 3:04 pm

Palestinians in northern part of the Gaza migrate to the southern parts of the Gaza Strip passing through Israeli military vehicles and tanks as the Israeli attacks continue in Gaza City, Gaza on November 18, 2023 [Mustafa Hassona – Anadolu Agency]

Israel published a map that showed the Gaza Strip divided into thousands of small blocks, claiming that they would instruct residents to flee to 'a safe block' if they wanted to bomb another.

Israel published a map that shows the Gaza Strip divided into thousands of small blocks, claiming that it would instruct residents to flee to ‘a safe block’ if it is going to bomb another.

Israel ordered Palestinians out of swathes of the main southern city in the Gaza Strip on Monday as it pressed its ground campaign deep into the south, sending desperate residents fleeing even as it dropped bombs on areas where it told them to go, Reuters has reported. The occupation state’s armed forced posted a map on X on Monday morning with around a quarter of the city of Khan Younis marked off in yellow as territory that must be evacuated at once. Three arrows pointed south and west, telling people to head towards the Mediterranean coast and towards Rafah, near the Egyptian border.

The army’s chief Arabic-language spokesperson wrote later on X that the central road out of Khan Younis to the north “constitutes a battlefield” and was shut. Access would be permitted on the western outskirts of the city, while in Rafah, a short “tactical suspension of military activities” would allow access until the early afternoon.

In Rafah itself, bombing at one site overnight had torn a crater the size of a basketball court out of the earth. A dead toddler’s bare feet and black trousers poked out from under a pile of rubble. Men struggled with their bare hands to move a chunk of the concrete that had crushed the child. Later they chanted “God is Great” and wept as they marched through the ruins carrying the body in a bundle and that of another small child body wrapped in a blanket.

“We were asleep and safe, they told us it was a safe area, Rafah and all,” said Salah Al-Arja, owner of one of the houses destroyed at the site. “There were children, women and martyrs. They tell you it is a safe area, but there is no safe area in all of the Gaza Strip, it is all lies and manipulation.”

Israel blames Hamas for putting civilians in danger by operating from civilian areas, including in tunnels which can only be destroyed by large bombs. Hamas denies this.

As many as 80 per cent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes in an Israeli bombing campaign that has reduced much of the crowded coastal strip to a desolate wasteland. The healthcare sector in Gaza has collapsed under the weight of the casualties and attacks on hospitals and medical staff by Israeli forces.

READ: UNICEF says Israeli bombardment causing ‘massive’ child casualties

Israel launched an air and ground offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza after Hamas led an attack on Israeli army barracks and settlements in the vicinity of Gaza on 7 October. The resistance fighters crossed the nominal border into the occupation state and took around 240 hostages. Since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopter gunships and tanks of the Israel Defence Forces had in fact killed many of the 1,200 soldiers and civilians alleged by Israel to have been killed by Hamas.

The apartheid occupation state has since killed more than 15,500 Palestinians in Gaza, 6,150 of whom were children, and 4,000 of whom were women. More than 41,000 people have been wounded by the Israeli offensive, and at least 8,000 are thought to be buried under the rubble of their homes destroyed by Israeli bombs.

Israeli forces largely captured the northern half of Gaza in November, and since a week-long truce collapsed on Friday they have pushed swiftly deep into the southern half. Tanks driving into Gaza from the border fence in the east along the road that divides Khan Younis from the city of Deir Al-Balah further north have reached a flour mill halfway to the Mediterranean coast, cutting off the main north-south route, say local residents.

“The goals in the northern section have almost been met,” the commander of Israel’s armoured corps, Brigadier-General Hisham Ibrahim, told Army Radio. “We are beginning to expand the ground manoeuvre to other parts of the Strip, with one goal: to topple the Hamas terrorist [sic] group.”

READ: Israel suffers heavy losses as resistance targets it in Gaza

The military released footage of troops patrolling in tanks and on foot, in fields and in badly damaged urban areas, as well as firing, without specifying the location in Gaza. Israel says that its evacuation orders are aimed at protecting civilians from harm, and called on international organisations to help encourage the Palestinians in Gaza to move to the areas labelled safe on Israeli maps.

The UN pointed out that the areas in the south that Israel has ordered evacuated in the three days since the truce had housed more than 350,000 people before the war, not counting the hundreds of thousands now sheltering there from other areas. In Khan Younis, many of those taking flight on Monday were already displaced from other areas. Abu Mohammed told Reuters that it was now the third time he had been forced to flee since abandoning his home in Gaza City in the north. “Why did they eject us from our homes in Gaza (City) if they planned to kill us here?” he asked.

At a home in Khan Yunis that was struck by Israeli bombs overnight, flames licked the collapsed masonry and grey smoke billowed out from the rubble. A child’s stuffed toy of a sheep lay in a pile of dust. Boys were picking through the wreckage. Next door, Nesrine Abdelmoty stood amid damaged furniture in the rented room where she lives with her divorced daughter and two-year-old baby.

“We were sleeping at 5 am when we felt things collapse, everything went upside down,” she told Reuters. “They told [people] to move from the north to Khan Younis, since the south is safer. And now, they’ve bombed Khan Younis. Even Khan Younis is not safe now, and even if we move to Rafah, Rafah is not safe as well. Where do they want us to go?”

Israel’s closest ally the US has called on it publicly to do more to safeguard civilians in the southern part of Gaza than in last month’s campaign in the north, especially as there are so many people already homeless there.

Israel permitted additional humanitarian supplies to enter the enclave during the truce, but the UN says this was paltry compared to the territory’s vast humanitarian need, and it has now been interrupted by the renewed fighting.

During the truce, Hamas released 105 of its hostages in return for 240 Palestinian detainees. However, with most women and children hostages now believed free, the truce collapsed over terms for releasing more, including Israeli men and soldiers. According to Israel, 136 hostages are still being held by Hamas, while Israel holds thousands of Palestinian detainees, many of them with neither charge nor trial, hostages in all but name.

OPINION: The ICC prosecutor betrayed his professional ethics and is a disgrace for the British legal system