Jerusalem, The Indonesia Post – The Israeli armed forces on Saturday said they had seen a “large movement” of Palestinian civilians towards southern Gaza after a day earlier Israel ordered residents of Gaza City to evacuate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed further retaliation for last week’s Hamas attack.
United States President Joe Biden revealed that consultations are being carried out with a number of governments in the Middle East regarding the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Palestinians who were trapped experienced power outages and shortages of food and water, and at the same time Gaza was bombarded by Israel.
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas as a result of its attacks a week ago, which claimed the lives of 1,300 Israelis, most of them civilians. Hamas also holds Israeli citizens hostage.
Since then, Israel has declared the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas and inhabited by 2.3 million Palestinians, under a total blockade. Israel bombards Gaza with its biggest air strikes. Gaza authorities said 1,900 people were killed.
The day before, more than one million residents of northern Gaza were ordered by Israel to flee to the south within 24 hours. The deadline itself has passed 5 am local time or 09.00 WIB earlier.
“We are seeing a large movement of Palestinian civilians towards the south,” Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said in a video Saturday morning. He did not mention a time limit and did not answer any questions.
“Around the Gaza Strip, Israeli reserve soldiers are already in formation to launch the next phase of operations. They are around the Gaza Strip, in the south, in the center and in the north, and they are preparing themselves to face whatever targets and tasks they receive.”
“The end of this war will be that we will disarm Hamas and its military capabilities and fundamentally change the situation so that Hamas no longer has the ability to cause harm to Israeli civilians or soldiers.”
Hamas itself vowed to fight until the last drop of blood and asked Palestinians to survive.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to head to southern Gaza from northern Gaza following orders from Israel. According to the UN, more than 400,000 Palestinians had already fled before Israel ordered them to do so.
However, many residents persisted. “Dead is better than gone,” said Mohammad, 20, outside a building destroyed by Israeli airstrikes near central Gaza.
Mosques in Gaza themselves broadcast the message, “Defend your homes. Defend your land.”
The UN and other organizations have warned of a catastrophe if so many people are forced to flee. The UN is asking for the blockade to be lifted so aid can enter.
“We need immediate humanitarian access throughout Gaza, so we can get fuel, food and water to everyone who needs it. Even war has its rules,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
During a speech in Philadelphia, Biden stated that overcoming the humanitarian crisis was a top priority.
According to Biden, United States teams in the region are working with Israel, Egypt, Jordan, other Arab governments and the UN.
“The majority of Palestinians have nothing to do with Hamas and the horrific attacks that Hamas carries out,” Biden said. “They are suffering too.”
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it was impossible for Gazans to comply with Israeli orders to move south without causing “dire humanitarian consequences”.
“How can 1.1 million people cross a densely populated war zone in less than 24 hours?”, said Dujarric.
Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, told United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jordan that the forced transfer of Gaza residents was a repeat of events in 1948 when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from what is now Israel. Most Gaza residents are descendants of 1948 refugees.
Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the world and currently there is no way out. Apart from being hit by the Israeli blockade, Egypt also rejected calls to open its border with Gaza.
United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday. Austin stated that military aid was flowing to Israel but this aid was to solve problems, not to take revenge. (mhn/bbs)