Palestinians are struggling to flee from areas of Gaza targeted by the Israeli military, facing a growing water and medical supply shortage ahead of an expected land offensive a week after Hamas’ bloody attack into Israel. Israel has renewed calls on social media and in leaflets to move south, while Hamas urged people to stay in their homes.
The U.N. and aid groups warn of severe human suffering due to a rapid exodus of 1.1 million residents, or half the territory’s population. The Israeli military claims hundreds of thousands have already heeded the warning and departed south. Palestinians can safely travel within Gaza from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time.
A week after Hamas’ attack, Israel is still working to assess the casualties. With special rabbinic approval, workers at a military base in central Israel continue to identify the bodies of Israelis and foreign nationals who were killed, most of them civilians.
The Israeli military’s evacuation of Gaza City would force the entire population to cram into the southern half of the Gaza Strip as Israel continues strikes across the territory, including in the south. Residents in Gaza City are unable to leave their current locations, particularly pregnant women, children, older persons, and persons with disabilities, and are calling for Israel to not target civilians, hospitals, schools, clinics, and U.N. locations.
Officials at Gaza City’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, have said that evacuation is impossible due to the high number of wounded and the scarcity of water and fuel powering generators. The situation inside the hospital is miserable, with 40,000 displaced civilians sitting under trees in the empty grounds surrounding the hospital and hoping they would be protected from the fighting.
Patients and personnel from the Al Awda Hospital in Gaza’s far north spent part of their night in the street with bombs landing in close proximity. Israeli military spokesperson Jonathan Conricus emphasized that the evacuation was aimed at keeping civilians safe and preventing Hamas from using them as human shields. He urged people in targeted areas to leave immediately and return only when it is safe to do so. Thousands of people crammed into a U.N.-run school-turned-shelter in Deir al-Balah, a farming town south of the evacuation zone, sleeping outside on the ground without mattresses or in chairs pulled from classrooms.
The Israeli military has conducted temporary raids into Gaza to battle militants and search for traces of 150 people abducted during Hamas’ October 7 assault on southern Israel. Over 2,200 people have been killed in Gaza, including 724 children and 458 women, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The Israeli government has destroyed over 7,000 housing units, resulting in over 1,500 deaths.
Hamas’ surprise attack killed over 1,300 Israeli civilians and 1,500 Hamas militants during the fighting. Egyptian officials announced that the Rafah border crossing with Gaza would open for the first time in days to allow foreigners out, but by Saturday evening, no movement had been seen. There are believed to be around 1,500 people in Gaza holding Western passports and additional people with passports from other parts of the world.
Egyptian authorities erected temporary blast walls on Egypt’s side of the crossing to prevent a mass exodus of Palestinians. Israel’s raids into Gaza were the first acknowledgement that Israeli troops had entered the territory since the military began its round-the-clock bombardment in retaliation for the Hamas massacre.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan have called for Israel to protect civilians in Gaza. Hamas claims that Israel’s airstrikes killed 22 hostages, including foreigners, without providing their nationalities. The Israeli military denied the claim. Hamas and other Palestinian militants aim to exchange hostages for thousands of Israeli prisoners, with 53 Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank since the war began.
The U.S. and Israel’s other allies have pledged support for the war on Hamas. However, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Joseph Borrell, said the Israeli military needed more time to leave northern Gaza. Hamas’ media office reported that airstrikes hit cars in three locations, killing 70 people.