Residents of Gaza City and its northern areas are living in a state of confusion and anxiety following an Israeli military warning calling for immediate evacuation of residential areas in the north of what is known as “Gaza Valley” towards the south, as a prelude to intensifying hostile military operations in Gaza City, which is the largest city in the Gaza Strip and its most important center.
The spokesperson of the occupation army, Avichay Adraee, published on his official account on the “X” platform a statement calling on all residents in the specified areas north of Gaza Valley to evacuate their homes and head south, claiming that this procedure is “for their protection.” He said, “Return to Gaza City will not be allowed until a statement is issued to that effect.”
According to the statement itself, the occupation army will continue tangible operations in Gaza City in the coming days, intending to refrain from harming civilians. However, official data issued by the Ministry of Health and international organizations indicate that harming civilians has already occurred since the start of the “Al-Aqsa Intifada” battle last Saturday, as entire families have been wiped out, and the number of martyrs has reached around 1500 dead and 7,000 wounded.
Around 1.1 million people live in areas currently subject to unprecedented terror and calls for mass displacement, which Palestinians in Gaza likened to the “new Nakba” in what resembles a repeat of the 1948 tragedies. This number represents about half of the population of the small coastal enclave, estimated at around 2.3 million.
With the emergence of the first light of day, and a few hours after the army statement was widely circulated among the population, crowds of people were seen boarding vehicles of varying sizes and uses, while others walked on foot, heading south across the two main streets “Al-Rashid” coastal, and “Salah Al-Din” which connect the north of the Strip with the south, both of which were destroyed in many sections during the seven days of aggression.
Gas stations that still operate with their remaining reserves witnessed overcrowding to supply gasoline and diesel to reach the southern areas of the Strip, the last of which is Rafah City, located 40 km away and bordering Egypt.
The UN spokesperson Stefan Dejaric said in a statement, at dawn on Friday, “The Israeli warning also applies to all UN staff, and those residing in facilities belonging to the organization including schools, health centers and clinics.”
A “fleet” of vehicles belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) bearing the insignia and flags of the international organization, was seen leaving Gaza City towards its main headquarters, towards Rafah City where it established an operations center to continue its relief operations.
In a post on the “X” platform, UNRWA urged the Israeli authorities to protect all civilians in UNRWA shelters including schools.
Data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs indicates that mass displacement is continuing in the Gaza Strip, announcing that the total number of internally displaced persons increased by 25% in the past 24 hours, now exceeding 423,000 people, with more than two-thirds living in UNRWA schools.
Following the Israeli warning, crowds of residents flocked to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, and stayed in its courtyard and surroundings, after their paths were cut off, taking shelter from potential Israeli targeting of homes.
Al Jazeera learned from reliable sources that journalists working for foreign institutions have already left their offices in Gaza City, and headed south of the Strip.
Standing firm in the face of displacement
In contrast to the response of some residents to the evacuation warning, others strongly reject responding to it. Abu Mahmoud, a resident of Al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City, said he went down to the street to stabilize his neighbors and reinforce their resilience in their homes, reminding them of the Nakba of their fathers and grandfathers, and that they should not be tools of a new Nakba.
Like Abu Mahmoud, others exchanged motivational phrases and positions on WhatsApp groups, encouraging resilience in homes and thwarting the occupation’s plan of displacement and mass evacuation.
“We will not leave, O people of our nation in the Gaza Strip, do not leave your homes and reject Israel’s criminal psychological warfare,” a university speaker declared during an intervention.warfare, even if your homes are destroyed, sleep among the rubble… Remember, every home from Rafah to Beit Hanoun is targeted, stand firm and do not repeat the 1948 Nakba.”
The authorities run by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) moved quickly to confront this warning, reassuring and steadying the population. The spokesperson of the governmental media office, Salama Maarouf, said in a statement that the occupation is trying to spread and pass some false propaganda news through various means, aiming to cause confusion among citizens and undermine the cohesion of the domestic front.
Among these attempts, according to Maarouf, is talk of directing some employees of international institutions south, in reference to south of the Strip which starts with the Middle Governorate and most of it is refugee camps, and the neighboring governorates of Khan Younis and Rafah in the far south.
Eyewitnesses from these areas told Al Jazeera that numbers of displaced people are gathering with their cars and belongings in the streets and around hospitals, in the absence of a place to take refuge.
Shelters belonging to UNRWA in these areas are overcrowded, exceeding their capacity which the UN organization estimated at 150,000 in all its centers across the Strip at the start of the aggression, while multiples of that number have sought refuge as displacement operations escalated within each city.
With the exception of the Red Crescent Society’s hotel in Khan Younis, which sources there told Al Jazeera is full with its employees displaced from its Gaza headquarters, there are no hotels in the areas south of Gaza Valley referred to in the occupation army’s statement for mass evacuation.