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Tags: israel | gaza

Israel Prepares Ground Assault on Gaza as Palestinians Flee

Sunday, 15 October 2023 09:19 AM EDT

The Israeli military said on Sunday it would continue to allow Gazans to evacuate south ahead of an expected ground assault by its forces on the Gaza Strip in retaliation for unprecedented attacks by Hamas militants eight days ago.

The army said hundreds of thousands had already moved south as Israel carried out the most intense bombardment the enclave has ever seen in response to the killing of 1,300 people in Israel, including 279 Israeli soldiers.

Authorities in Gaza said more than 2,300 people had been killed, a quarter of them children, and nearly 10,000 wounded so far. The enclave's hospitals are running short of medical supplies and struggling to cope with the flow of injured.

Among them was four-year-old Fulla Al-Laham, 14 members of whose family, including her parents and siblings, died in an Israeli air strike.

"May God keep me alive to take care of her," said her grandmother Um Muhammed Al-Laham, who held the little girl's hand as she lay in a hospital with a bandaged arm and on a drip.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said early on Sunday that 300 people had been killed and 800 more had been injured in Gaza during the last 24 hours.

As Israeli airstrikes continued ahead of ground operations, some Gazans said they had decided to return home to the north as nowhere was safe.

Israel has vowed to annihilate Hamas after its fighters rampaged through Israeli towns on Oct. 7 shooting men, women and children and seizing hostages in the worst attack on civilians in the country's history.

Graphic video footage of the attacks and reports from medical and emergency services of atrocities in the overrun towns and kibbutzes deepened Israel's sense of shock.

As it geared up its response, the Israeli military on Friday told residents of the northern half of the Gaza Strip - which includes Gaza City's more than one million residents - to move south immediately.

Amid international pleas to protect civilians, Israel's military said on Sunday it would continue to allow Gazans to evacuate south.

"Residents of Gaza City, I call upon you again: Hamas is trying to prevent your evacuation. We will enable it southward. Leave Gaza City and all the surrounding areas for the sake of your personal security," said chief Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari in a televised briefing.

Hamas has told Gazans not to obey the Israeli evacuation order.

RETURNING HOME

Some Palestinians who went south said they were heading back north because they were attacked from the skies wherever they went.

"What's the point? They are bombing in Gaza City and they are bombing here in Nusseirt (in central Gaza Strip), also in Khan Younis and Rafah," said Abu Dawoud, a Gaza accountant.

"I am taking my family back into Gaza. I can't continue to live in a school or outside my home, when no place is safe anyway, my home is better," he said.

Hussam Abu Safiya, an intensive care doctor on a children's ward at the Kamal Edwan hospital in the northern Gaza strip, said the order to evacuate was impossible.

"In this ward as you can see, there are children who are attached to ventilators, and now we have been asked to evacuate the hospital, where should we evacuate these children?," he said.

Hamas has said dozens of people were killed in strikes on cars and trucks carrying refugees on Friday. Reuters could not independently verify this claim.

Some Gazans have vowed to stay, remembering the "Nakba," or "catastrophe," when many Palestinians were forced from their homes during the 1948 war that accompanied Israel's creation.

CONTAINING THE CONFLICT

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in the region seeking to secure the release of 126 hostages Israel says were taken by Hamas back into Gaza, and prevent the war from spreading.

Blinken said he had a "very productive" meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh on Sunday and was due to travel later to Egypt, whose Rafa crossing is now seen as the main gateway for aid to reach Gaza. He will travel to Israel again on Monday.

Salman said Saudi Arabia was working hard to try to prevent the conflict escalating and wanted to help lift the Israeli siege of Gaza.

The violence in Gaza has been accompanied by the deadliest clashes at Israel's northern border with Lebanon since 2006, raising fears of war spreading to another front.

Israel's regional foe Iran, which backs Hamas, has lauded the Hamas attack on Israel but has denied any involvement. Its UN mission said late on Saturday that if Israel's "war crimes and genocide" were not halted immediately, "the situation could spiral out of control" and have far-reaching consequences.

Hamas said in a statement it and Iran had "agreed to continue co-operation" to achieve the group's goals.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's national security adviser on Saturday warned Lebanon's militant group Hezbollah, also supported by Iran, not to take action that could lead to Lebanon's "destruction."

Clashes on Israel's border with Lebanon, which have been limited so far, resumed on Sunday when Hezbollah fighters launched a missile at an Israeli border village, killing one person and wounding three others. The Israeli military said it was striking in Lebanon in retaliation.

Syria, which also borders Israel and has ties to Iran, has accused Israel of carrying out strikes against its airports, while Israel has accused Iran of trying to smuggle weapons through Syria.

© 2024 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Headline
Israel was preparing on Saturday to launch a ground assault in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, after telling Palestinians living in the densely populated territory to flee south towards a closed border with Egypt. The Israeli national security adviser meanwhile warned...
israel, gaza
909
2023-19-15
Sunday, 15 October 2023 09:19 AM
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