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ConflictsMiddle East

Israel strikes southern Gaza after mass evacuation order

July 2, 2024

Israeli forces conducted more deadly strikes on southern Gaza after militants launched rockets on Israel. The UN estimates around 250,000 people were affected by an evacuation order a day earlier.

Palestinian civilians with their belongings leaving the heavily damaged city of Khan Younis.
Israeli forces have continued to strike the city of Khan Younis, where civilians have again been ordered to evacuate.Image: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu/picture alliance

The Israel Defense Forces (IFD) continued to launch air and ground strikes against Hamas targets in the south of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, resulting in more civilian casualties despite renewed orders to evacuate.

Health officials at the main hospital in Khan Younis told the AFP and Reuters news agencies that Israeli shelling in the city had killed eight people and injured over 30 more.

After Hamas allies from the Islamic Jihad militant group launched a rocket barrage at southern Israel, Palestinian civilians were ordered to evacuate areas east of the southern Gazan cities of Khan Younis and Rafah, including the towns of Al-Qarara and Bani Suhaila, ahead of planned strikes.

UNRWA: 250,000 people affected by evacuation order

UNRWA, the UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees, estimated on Tuesday that a quarter of a million people had been impacted by Israel's evacuation order for parts of southern Gaza on Monday.

"We've seen people moving, families moving, people starting to pack up their belongings and try to leave this area," UNRWA spokeswoman Louise Wateridge told reporters in Geneva via video link from Gaza.

Ahmad Najjar, a Bani Suhaila resident, told AFP that the latest Israeli evacuation order, issued to civilians who, in many cases, have already fled several times, had created "a large displacement of residents" and spread "fear and extreme anxiety."

Speaking to Reuters, a 55-year-old businessman who has been displaced six times since the current war began in October said, "Every time people go back to their homes and begin to rebuild some of their lives even on the rubble of their houses, the occupation sends the tanks back to destroy what is left."

The IDF has insisted it targeted "weapon storage facilities and operational centers" and said it issued evacuation orders to avoid civilian casualties, accusing Hamas of using civilians as human shields.

Gaza water shortage raises health risks

Israeli attacks continue in central and northern Gaza

Further north, Israeli forces were continuing to operate in the Gaza City district of Shujaiya, where army officials said troops had "ambushed an armed terrorist squad" in a car.

They said Palestinian militants "were eliminated, and dozens of terrorist infrastructure sites above and below ground were dismantled, including tunnel shafts."

Later on Tuesday, doctors told Reuters that 17 people were killed when Israeli tanks opened fire on a street in the densely populated Zeitoun district of Gaza City.

In central Gaza, witnesses told AFP that Israeli strikes hit the Nuseirat refugee camp, where the Palestinian Red Crescent reported at least one child killed.

Netanyahu claims Hamas' end is near

The hostilities in Gaza continue despite months of back-and-forth truce talks and negotiations over potential hostage releases and a cease-fire.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was close to achieving its goal of destroying the military capabilities of Hamas. Still, he said that "there will be a continuation to strike its remnants."

"We've heard the Israelis talk about a significant downshift in their operations in Gaza," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Monday. "[But that] remains to be seen."

The October 7 terror attack by Hamas on southern Israel resulted in over 1,000 deaths, mostly civilians, while the militants also seized 251 hostages, triggering the current war.

Israel's retaliatory offensive in the Gaza Strip has killed at least 37,900 people, also mostly civilians, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run enclave.

The United Nations and other humanitarian relief agencies have voiced alarm over the dire humanitarian crisis and the threat of starvation facing Gaza's 2.4 million people.

Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jews protest mandatory military duty

mf/fb (AFP, Reuters)