The Israeli military has warned that the more than 1.1 million residents of the northern portion of the Gaza Strip must evacuate to the south within 24 hours, said the United Nations in the early hours of Friday. The U.N. has been informed by Israeli liaison officers that half the population of the Palestinian enclave, where 2.3 million people live in overcrowded conditions in a 25-mile (40-kilometer) long strip of land, must be moved southwards immediately. The Israeli military’s warning also instructs Gazans not to approach the separation fence with Israel.
The message could signal an impending ground invasion by the Israeli Armed Forces in response to the Hamas attack last Saturday that claimed the lives of 1,300 Israelis and concluded with the kidnapping of more than 100 people.
Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, said in an official statement from New York that the measure affects “the entire population located north of Wadi Gaza.” This includes Gaza City, capital of the Palestinian coastal territory. Dujarric considers it is impossible that such a massive movement of people could occur “without devastating humanitarian consequences.”
“The IDF calls for the evacuation of all civilians of Gaza City from their homes southwards for their own safety and protection and move to the area south of the Wadi Gaza,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “Hamas terrorists are hiding in Gaza City inside tunnels underneath houses and inside buildings populated with innocent Gazan civilians.”
Following the warning, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, stated that the U.N.’s response to Israel’s prior warning to residents in Gaza “is shameful.” A spokesman for the Hamas organization has urged the Gaza population to ignore the Israeli alert. The Hamas Authority for Refugee Affairs told residents of the north of the territory to “remain steadfast in your homes and to stand firm in the face of this disgusting psychological war waged by the occupation,” according to Associated Press.
“Day of Jihad”
Former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal has called for protests across the Muslim world on Friday in support of the Palestinians and for the peoples of neighboring countries to join the fight against Israel, Reuters reported.
“[We must] head to the squares and streets of the Arab and Islamic world on Friday,” Meshaal, who currently heads Hamas’s diaspora office, said in a recorded statement sent to the news agency.
“Tribes of Jordan, sons of Jordan, brothers and sisters of Jordan... This is a moment of truth and the borders are close to you, you all know your responsibility,” Meshaal said.
In a press briefing on Thursday at the White House, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby addressed reporters’ questions about the risk of any potential activity against Americans on the alleged Day of Jihad, saying that “we are constantly in touch with local law enforcement, state and — state and federal officials across the country to — to make sure that we are as — as vigilant as we can be to be able to identify and disrupt any threats to the American people.”
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