Israel informs the UN of the necessity of evacuating the northern Gaza strip within 24 hours, signaling an impending ground offensive.
The Israeli army informed the UN “that the entire population of Gaza north of Wadi Gaza should relocate to southern Gaza within the next 24 hours,” UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement late Thursday.
The statement came amid Israeli reports saying the Israeli army is ready to launch a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip and is awaiting approval at the political level.
Noting that around 1.1 million people live in the northern Gaza Strip, Dujarric said “The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded, avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation.”
“We believe it is impossible for such a step to occur without devastating humanitarian consequences,” he said.
The spokesman noted that the order also applies to “all UN staff and those sheltered in UN facilities – including schools, health centers and clinics.”
The ongoing conflict began when the Palestinian Hamas group launched Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, a multi-pronged surprise attack that included a barrage of rocket launches and infiltrations into Israel via land, sea, and air.
Hamas said it was in retaliation for the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem and Israeli settlers’ growing violence against Palestinians.
The Israeli military launched Operation Swords of Iron against Hamas targets within the Gaza Strip in response.
The number of Palestinians killed from Israeli attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip has risen to 1,537, the Health Ministry in Gaza announced Thursday.
The statement noted that the dead included 500 children and 276 women, with 6,612 people injured.