Israel gives besieged Gaza residents 6-hour warning to leave north as it readies for ground attack in battle with Hamas millitants.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has ordered civilians in the north of the Gaza Strip to move south between 10am and 4pm local time, claiming they will be able to do so “without harm.”
Thousands of people who fled their homes on Friday crammed into a UN-run school-turned-shelter in Deir al-Balah, a city south of the evacuation zone.
Many slept outside on the ground without mattresses, or in chairs pulled from the classrooms.
“I came here with my children. We slept on the ground. We don’t have a mattress, or clothes,” Howeida al-Zaaneen, 63, who is from the northern town of Beit Hanoun, said. “I want to go back to my home, even if it is destroyed.”
The military said on Saturday it had seen a “significant movement” south of Palestinian civilians, a day after ordering Gaza City residents to flee, as Israel’s prime minister promised further retaliation for Hamas’ rampage last week.
In retaliation for the onslaught a week ago, in which its fighters killed 1,300 Israelis, primarily civilians, and took numerous prisoners, Israel has pledged to completely destroy Hamas.
Since then, Israel put the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million Palestinians, under a total siege and bombarded it with unprecedented air strikes. Gaza authorities say 1,900 people have died.
On Friday, more than a million residents of northern Gaza had received a notice from Israel to flee south within 24 hours, a deadline that expired at 5am (0200 GMT).
The warning comes as the millitary readies for the next stage of operations in Gaza city.
“Around the Gaza Strip, Israeli reserve soldiers in formation (are) getting ready for the next stage of operations,” Israeli military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus told a video briefing early on Saturday.
“They are all around the Gaza Strip, in the south, in the centre and in the north, and they are preparing themselves for whatever target they get, whatever task.
“The end state of this war is that we will dismantle Hamas and its military capability and fundamentally change the situation so that Hamas never again has the ability to inflict any damage on Israeli civilians or soldiers.”
Hamas has however, vowed to fight to the last drop of blood and told residents to stay.